CICS 305

Social Issues in Computing

CICS 305 satisfies the Junior Year Writing (JYW) requirement for CS and Informatics Majors at UMass.  It is also an important course in the undergraduate curriculum for learning more about ethics and the social implications of computing. Topics vary each semester as many readings are taken from current events. At minimum, students should expect to learn more about how computing intersects with race, gender, access, identity, social class, priviledge, language, and the environment. Previous topics covered in class include: Gamergate, CS for All, algorithmic bias, inclusivity in CS, planned obsolescence, right to repair, energy consumption, speed of technological advance (and resultant societal effects), AI personhood, AI development, automation, and autonomous vehicles.  Discussions are used to help students practice critical thinking about current issues in computing through a lens informed by social theories.

As a JYW course, CICS 305 has been certified to uphold specific characteristics by the Unviersity Writing Committee. Some of those characteristics include: disciplinary focus, peer review, written feedback from the professor, frequent writing assignments resulting in 20-25 pages of polished text, specific instruction in information literacy methods/tools, and exposure to the written aspects of career preparation. As an upper-level writing course, CICS 305 teaches English grammar rhetorically and contextually on an individual basis when needed as its prescribed focus is on higher order rhetorical concerns such as pupose and audience. As a result, writing instruction, practice, and feedback will reflect attention to audience, purpose, and a precise, concise style of writing that is valued within the computer science field.

Class Participation

Because students' experience with and ideas about computing make up part of the course content, class attendance is required. Students are permitted a small number of 'allowed' absences.


CICS 305 is presented as a paperless course. There is no required textbook to be purchased, and students will submit work and access their feedback entirely online whenever possible.