CMPUT 300 - Winter 2012

Computers and Society




Colossus: The Forbin Project (produced in 1969 though released in 1970) is an American science fiction thriller film. It is based upon the 1966 novel Colossus, by Dennis Feltham Jones, about a massive American defence computer named Colossus becoming sentient and deciding to assume world control. See Internet Archive Version



Course Home



Submitting Homework


General Information

Instructor: Pierre Boulanger
Tel: 780-492-3031

Office: 411 Athabasca Hall
Office hours: By appointment only


Course Requirements and Objectives

The course deals with moral, legal and social issues of computer technology. Many ethical issues that did not exist before are now omnipresent. For example, one can get news from many accessible online sources, but their existence threatens the existence of the newspapers that employ the reporters who gather the news. Social media are a great way to interact, but they can threaten personal privacy. This course will explore such issues and more. It will combine lectures and seminars; discussion and opinions are strongly encouraged.


Course Topics

  • Privacy
  • Risks of computer systems
  • Ethical issues of computers
  • Freedom of speech
  • Social networks
  • Intellectual property


Student Evaluation

There will be several graded assignments. Most of the assignment grades will be given as soon as possible (max one week).

Grade Distribution

The graded assignments constitute the final grade of this course.

  • Assignment 1 (20%)
  • Assignment 2 (20%)
  • Assignment 3 (20%)
  • Assignment 4 (20%)
  • Assignment 5 (20%)


Class Website

The content of this website is organized to provide a learning framework where:

  • Teaching notes - provides the teaching notes used in our lectures; the page also gives an overview and structure of the teaching material; sometimes we do update the notes; therefore, it is best to archive a copy of the teaching notes AFTER the actual lectures have been delivered.
  • Assignments - Describe assignments and delivery schedules;
  • Weekly schedules - provides a detailed list of topics and assignments that we will cover each week; this page changes because we have to update the speed and rhythm of the course based on our current progress; however, once the lecture and the assignments have been given, the content will not change anymore.


Suggested Course Book

The text is A Gift of Fire: Social, Legal, and Ethical Issues for Computing and the Internet, Sara Baase, Prentice-Hall, 2008, 3rd edition, 978-0136008484. Some readings will be from primary sources.

There appears to be an electronic version; I have not examined it.


The Risks Digest

Please become a regular reader of the Risks Digest, using any of the mechanisms listed.



No computer science background is required other than the usual familiarity with the Internet. An open mind and a willingness to discuss things are strongly preferred.


Homework Policy

There will be one paper for each major unit.

Late assignments are subject to increased penalties. There are no grace days unless for extreme cases. See the slides from the first class for details.


Class Policies

Academic Integrity

The University of Alberta is committed to the highest standards of academic integrity and honesty. Students are expected to be familiar with these standards regarding academic honesty and to uphold the policies of the University in this respect. Students are particularly urged to familiarize themselves with the provisions of the Code of Student Behaviour (online at and avoid any behavior which could potentially result in suspicions of cheating, plagiarism, misrepresentation of facts and/or participation in an offence. Academic dishonesty is a serious offence and can result in suspension or expulsion from the University. (GFC 29 SEP 2003)




All course components must be done individually.


Department Policies


Refer to Department Policy to learn about:

1.    Collaboration

2.    Excused Absences

3.    Conditions of Use


University Policies


The University of Alberta policies include, but are not limited to, the following:

Electronic Communication Policy

Code of Student Behavior

Student Appeals


Version January 5, 2012