CS91: Socially Responsible Computing

Announcements | Introduction | Schedule| Course Material | Project | Grading | Links



Everybody knows how we can use computers to make money or waste time. But how can we use computers to do good in the world?

In this course, we will explore how computers can be used to ease suffering, reduce poverty, empower women, improve the environment, or just make life a little bit better for everyone. Topics include the technologies for the developing world, the open source software movement, access technologies for people with disabilities, computer literacy and the digital divide, reusing and recycling computers, and green computing.

Class information

Professor: Douglas Turnbull
Office: Science Center 255
Phone: (610) 597-6071
Office hours: TBA or by appointment

Room: Science Center Conference Room
Time: Wednesdays 1:15pm–4pm
Wiki: CS91 Wiki
Text: None, but lots of suggested references and weekly readings...


1 Sep 02 Introductions & Project Planning Individual:
Read EPICS Project Documentation Slides
Review EPICS Design Process Guide
2 Sep 09
Domestic Digital Divide: Network Neighborhoods, Free IT Athens
Guests: Steve Fischer (Chester Housing Authority), Erica Weihermuller (Network Neighborhood), Semmy Purewals (Founder Free IT Athens, U Tennessee, Chattanooga)
  1. Network Neighbor Grant Application (Handout, Must Read)
  2. Dissecting the "Digital Divide": A Case Study in Egypt Warschauer, 2003 (Must Read)
  3. Free IT Athens Website (Read)
  4. Semmy Purewal's Talk at Southeast LinuxFest (Optional, Listen to track #18)
3 Sep 16 Field trip to Chester
Rebuilding computer of CHA computer lab
Please reflect on your experience in your journal.
4 Sep 23
International Digital Divide: TechBridgeWorld
Guests: Prof. Bernardine Dias (TechBridgeWorld @ CMU)
  1. How Computer Science Serves the Developing World Dias and Brewer, 2009 (Must Read)
  2. TechBridgeWorld Website (Read)
  3. The TechBridgeWorld Initiative: Broadening Perspectives in Computing Technology, Education and Research Dias, Mills-Tettey and Mertz, 2005 (Read, Focus on Sections 3 & 4)
  4. Teaching Technical Creativity Through Robotics: A Case Study in Ghana" Mills-Tettey, Dias, Browing and Amanquah, 2007 (Skim)

International Digital Divide: One Laptop Per Child (OLPC)
  1. OLPC Website (Must Read & Watch Video)
  2. OLPC: Vision vs. Reality Kraemer, Dedrick and Sharma, 2009 (Must Read)
  3. Joy of Tech OLPC cartoon by Nitrozac & Snaggy, 2007 (skim)

Individual: Hand in Notebook
5 Sep 30
Developing World Development: Mobile Telemedicine in Botswana
Guests: Rachel Gormley (UPenn Med), Chris Liang (Click Diagnostics)
  1. Click Diagnostics Website (Must Read )
  2. Mobile Teledermatology: a feasibility study of 58 Subjects using Mobile Phones Ebner et al., 2008 (Must Read)
  3. Cervical Cancer Screening in Botswana: A Role of Telemedicine Gormley et al., 2009 (Must Read)
  4. The use of mobile telemedicine for remote diagnosis in HIV infected patients in Botswana Kovarik, Gormley et al., 2009 (Skim 1-page Abstract)
  5. Management of cryotherapy-ineligible women in a "Screen-and-Treat" Cervical Cancer Prevention Program Targeting HIV-infected Women in Zambia: Lessons from the Field Pfaendler et al., 2008 (Skim)
Group: Project Charter
6 Oct 07 Developing World Development: Student Presentations

Each student will present one paper (see below) to the class. You will need to explore supplementary material (related papers, websites, videos) and contact the individuals involved with your project in order to prepare for your 15-minute presentation (12-14 slides). Please send me your slide stack (ppt, keynote, google doc) by 9pm on Tuesday, Oct 6.
  1. Mobile phones and paper documents: evaluating a new approach for capturing microfinance data in rural India, Parikh et al., 2006 (Nick)
  2. Designing Digital Games for Rural Children: A Study of Traditional Village Games in India, Kam et al., 2009(Kwame)
  3. Stages of Design in Technology for Global Development, Donner et al. 2008 (Maria)
  4. Deploying a Rural Wireless Telemedicine System: Experiences in Sustainability, Surana 2008 (Dan)
  5. Chile's Learning Network, Potashnik 1996 ( Joel)
  6. Content Creation and Dissemination by-and-for Users in Rural Areas, Agarwal et al. 2009 (Ivana)
  7. Evaluating the Accuracy of Data Collection on Mobile Phones: A Study of Forms, SMS, and Voice, Patnaik et al. 2009 (Emanne)
  8. Early OLPC Experiences in rural Uruguayan School, Hourcade et al. 2008 (David)

Oct 14

October Holiday

7 Oct 21 Access Technology: Helping disabled people using technology
Guest: Anne Cavender, (U Washington)
  1. Assistive and Mainstream Technologies for People with Disabilities, Field & Jette, Eds. 2007 (Hand Out, Must Read)
  2. Access for All, Aycinena, 2009 (Must Read)
  3. MobileASL: Intelligibility of sign language video over mobile phones, A. Cavender, R. Ladner, E. Riskin, 2007 (Must Read)
  4. The State of Corporate Website Accessibility, Loiacono et al., 2009 (Skim)
  5. A Blind Person's Interactions with Technology , Shinohara & Tenenberg, 2009 (Skim)
Pick Topic for Week 9-11 Presentations
Please email me the paper you would like the class to read ahead of your talk.
8 Oct 28 Security and Privacy in Cyberspace
Guest lecture by Charles Kelemen (newly awarded ACM Distinguished Educator)
Please refer to Prof. Kelemen's reading list. You should respond to the two essay questions listed at the bottom of this list in your journal.
Group: Specification Report (Email me a copy by 5pm on Friday, Oct 30)
9 Nov 04 Student-lead Seminars
Groups of students will lead a 40-minute discussion on a topic a topic of interest. You will assign one paper to the class to read before your presentation. Please email me when you have decided on your topic and paper. You may use powerpoint, videos, author interviews (via Skype), discussion questions, etc., to make the discussion fun, interesting, and interactive.

Quality of Life & Environment: Student-Lead Discussions
  1. Technologies for Social and Political Change: www.barackobama.com (Nick)
  2. Better Healthcare: Monitoring Patients with Technology, Electronic Medical Records (Maria)
  3. Green Technology: eWaste (Emanne)
Individual: Hand in Notebook
10 Nov 11 Sharing Information: Student-Lead Discussions
  1. Open Information Movement: Creative Commons, Google Books (Joel)
  2. Visualizing Socio-Economic Conditions (Dan)
11 Nov 18 Education: Student-Lead Discussions
  1. Educational Programming: Alice, Scratch (Ivana)
  2. Educational Games: CostOfLife (Kwame)
Group: Final Delivery Report Draft
12 Nov 25 (Humanitarian) Free Open Source Software (HFOSS): Linux, Free SaaS, GNU (David)
13 Dec 02 Computing in the Arts:
14 Dec 09 ChesTech Website Launch Party from 1-2pm. Come join us for lunch! Due at 1pm on Dec 9
  • Journal
  • Individual Report
  • Group Report
  • Course Evaluation on blackboard
See class email for details.

Course Material & Presentations

Each week, we will be discussing a topic that involves computing and some social topic. It is important that you read, watch or examine the documents listed before class so that we can have a meaningful and constructive discussion. A document may be a paper, a website, or a video.

I realize that as the semester progresses, there will be times that you will not be able to review each document. To this end, I have denoted each document with a Must Read, Read, and Skim designation. If you know that will be unable to read every paper, please focus on the Must Read papers first.

For every Must Read document and most of the Read document, you should prepare a 1-page summary in your class journal. The format for the summary will depend to the nature of the document, but in general you should provide: You are also encouraged to find and consume additional material (e.g., following paper references, web searching using Google Scholar, emailing the authors. Bring this information to class to share with your colleagues. (If you miss some of the document summaries for the assigned material, you can make up for it by doing summaries of additional material.) You will also be required to do two presentations in during the semester.

Community-based Learning Project

We will be working with the Chester Housing Authority (CHA) on their Neighborhood Networks project to improve computer literacy and computer access for low-income residence in Chester, PA.

The first step will be to learn about the social, economic, and cultural context of Chester and the residents of the housing authority. Group of students will then design, develop and deploy a project that meets the goals of the Neighborhood Networks initiative. The development cycle with involve a close collaborative relationship with both the administrators and residence of the Chester Housing Authority. We will be following the EPICS Design Process: Problem Identification, Specification Development, Conceptual Design, Detail Design, Production, Service & Maintenance, Redesign or Retirement. The EPICS process stresses the importance of understanding the context of the problem, close collaboration with a community partner, and rigorous documentation for organization and sustainability.

Each student will required to maintain a journal to document their individual work: observations, thoughts, ideas, reviews of relate research material, meeting notes, contact information, informal and formal experiment (include hypothesis, setup, data, results, conclusions), and other information that is relevant to the project. Please see the EPICS Documentation Slides for details on formatting journal entries. The journals will be collect for grading three times during the semester (Week 4, 9, and 13).

In addition to the individual journals, each group of student will be required to submit various documents based on the EPICS Design Process. Please refer to the schedule above for the due dates of these project reports.


This course is structured like a seminar course where each student will be graded based on his or her contribution to both the seminar and the community project.
Seminar 50%
Reading Summaries Week 4 5%
Reading Summaries Week 9 5%
Reading Summaries Week 13 5%
Paper Presentation Week 6 10%
Topic Presentation Weeks 9-11 15%
In-class Contribution 10%
Project 50%
Journal Week 4 3%
Journal Week 9 3%
Journal Week 13 4%
Project Charter 4%
Specification Report 8%
Final Presentation 8%
Final Delivery Report & User Manual 16%
Peer Reviews 4%
Links that are related to the course may be posted here. If you have suggestions for links, let me know.


Research Centers

Professional Organizations and Conferences

Inspirational Material