KV4007 - Computers & Society

What will I learn on this module?

What is a ‘good’ technology? This module will provide an introduction to the range of effects, opportunities and unintended consequences, that computing has upon society. The design decisions taking in developing technologies can have far reaching consequences across all areas of society, from big philosophical questions such as ‘can computers ever be sentient’, to shopping for groceries and environmental impacts of resource and power use.
This module will provide a foundation in concepts such as the forms of harms which can arise from the design, development, and use of technologies, including algorithmic harms, and compounding existing inequalities. Conversely you will be familiarised with where disruption provides new opportunities and challenges society to re-evaluate the status quo. This is approached through a framing which considers broader attitudes towards technology, sustainability, what drives the development of technology for profit, and how users may stage resistance against authority/power using computers. Topics include algorithmic harms, the digital citizen and pro/anti-social behaviours, morality and ethical design, and future of a digital society.
During ‘Computers & Society’ you will engage in research-rich critical analyses of harm arising through the development of technology, learn how to develop evidence-driven arguments, and position yourself as a responsible computing professional by identifying what harms you might unintentionally contribute to, and how you might avoid or mitigate doing so. The main element in assessment (70%) will be a final case study that will bring together all your new skills and knowledge and allow you to position yourself as a responsible computing professional.

How will I learn on this module?

You will learn through lectures, interactive workshops, and independent learning. The lectures will cover theory and techniques to provide you with a foundation in understanding the professional, ethical, legal, and societal implications of technology, with a detailed evaluation of harms arising, and techniques for avoiding or mitigating these harms. You will further your understanding during the workshops in which you will work through tutor-led exercises individually and in groupsw to critically assess both research and our own assumptions.

How will I be supported academically on this module?

You will be supported by tutors during the timetabled sessions and you will receive formative feedback on your work and engagement with the workshop exercises. The University’s eLearning Portal offers remote access to all lecture and seminar materials to reinforce your learning. In addition, the university library offers support for all students through the provision of electronic resources and a detailed reading list for the module.

What will I be expected to read on this module?

All modules at Northumbria include a range of reading materials that students are expected to engage with. The reading list for this module can be found at: http://readinglists.northumbria.ac.uk
(Reading List service online guide for academic staff this containing contact details for the Reading List team – http://library.northumbria.ac.uk/readinglists)

What will I be expected to achieve?

Knowledge & Understanding:
MLO1 – Demonstrate an understanding of sustainable practices and technology within the relationship between technology and society
MLO2 - Demonstrate an understanding of the societal responsibility of computing professionals

Intellectual / Professional skills & abilities:
MLO3 – Find and use evidence to assess, and justify your standpoint on relevant topics
MLO4 - Discuss technological developments in computing in general and your specialization in particular and exhibit an understanding of their professional, ethical, legal, and societal implications

Personal Values Attributes (Global / Cultural awareness, Ethics, Curiosity) (PVA):
MLO5 - Be able to identify where you can potentially make a difference in responsible development of technology

How will I be assessed?

Knowledge & Understanding:
MLO1 – Demonstrate an understanding of sustainable practices and technology within the relationship between technology and society
MLO2 - Demonstrate an understanding of the societal responsibility of computing professionals

Intellectual / Professional skills & abilities:
MLO3 – Find and use evidence to assess, and justify your standpoint on relevant topics
MLO4 - Discuss technological developments in computing in general and your specialization in particular and exhibit an understanding of their professional, ethical, legal, and societal implications

Personal Values Attributes (Global / Cultural awareness, Ethics, Curiosity) (PVA):
MLO5 - Be able to identify where you can potentially make a difference in responsible development of technology

How will I be assessed? (SRS 0006)
Please give details of all formative and summative assessment process indicating which MLOs will be addressed and how feedback will be provided.

There will be two summative assessments in this module.

The first summative assessment is a Group Assessment and will be a submitted 1-page advertising poster for an exemplar of a problematic technology design, with accompanying 1000 word critical overview of the design decisions made and marketing pitch. It is worth 30% of your mark for this module.
This assessment addresses Module Learning Outcomes: ML01, ML03, ML04.

The second, main, summative assessment will be a final case study where you will use the knowledge and skills you have learned throughout the module to identify what you feel is a societal harm/impact arising from a given technology, and/or opportunities afforded and how they apply to different stakeholders in your field of specialization where you could make a difference as a responsible computing professional, and how you would go about doing so. The word limit will be 3,000. It is worth 70% of your mark for this module.

This assessment addresses Module Learning Outcomes: ML01, ML02, ML03, ML04, and ML05.

You will receive critical constructive feedback on your assessments.
During workshops there will be formative workshop exercises and class discussions for which you will also receive formative feedback.
Programme (Level) Learning Outcomes that this module contributes to:
[Please insert PLO number as listed on the programme specification]

This Level 4 Module addresses the following PLOs as listed in the relevant programme specifications:

ALL programmes:
KU1, KU3
IPSA3
PVA1, PVA2, PVA3, PVA4.

Pre-requisite(s)

N/A

Co-requisite(s)

N/A

Module abstract

This module will open your eyes to a range of the harms, opportunities and effects that the seemingly innocent development of technology has, and continues to have, on people’s lives and livelihoods. Indicative topics include: power, social movements, techno-solutionism, and the role of technology in enabling citizens to challenge power and resist authority; and approaches for the responsible and sustainable design of technology. Research-driven lectures are followed by practical workshops where you will engage in exercises to critically assess both research, given technologies, and societal attitudes towards technology. You will apply your newly acquired knowledge and skills in a research-driven assessment where you identify the main harm(s), stakeholders, and key debates in your field of specialization, and what role you can play as a responsible computing professional to mitigate them.

Course info

UCAS Code G415

Credits 20

Level of Study Undergraduate

Mode of Study 3 years full-time or 4 years with a placement (sandwich)/study abroad

Department Computer and Information Sciences

Location City Campus, Northumbria University

City Newcastle

Start September 2024

Fee Information

Module Information

All information is accurate at the time of sharing.

Full time Courses starting in 2023 are primarily delivered via on-campus face to face learning but may include elements of online learning. We continue to monitor government and local authority guidance in relation to Covid-19 and we are ready and able to flex accordingly to ensure the health and safety of our students and staff.

Contact time is subject to increase or decrease in line with additional restrictions imposed by the government or the University in the interest of maintaining the health and safety and wellbeing of students, staff, and visitors, potentially to a full online offer, should further restrictions be deemed necessary in future. Our online activity will be delivered through Blackboard Ultra, enabling collaboration, connection and engagement with materials and people.

 

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