Social and Professional Issues of the Information Age

Module description

The module aims to provide you with the tools to reflect upon your role in the interface between computers and society and on the moral and ethical use of computers and the technologies that rely upon them. By taking this module, you will become aware of your legal responsibilities when using and developing software and hardware systems. As part of this, the module will cover ethical theories, computer law and professional codes of conduct, as well as how broader areas of law (e.g. defamation, contracts, privacy and freedom of information legislation) impact upon users and developers of software.

Full module specification

Module title:Social and Professional Issues of the Information Age
Module code:ECM1407
Module level:1
Academic year:2014/5
Module lecturers:
  • Professor Jonathan Fieldsend - Convenor
Module credit:15
ECTS value:


Duration of module: Duration (weeks) - term 1:


Duration (weeks) - term 2:


Duration (weeks) - term 3:


Module aims

This module will introduce you to the law regulating the use of computers. It will enhance your awareness and critical thinking skills regarding the social impact of information technology and artificial intelligence, and help you relate professional IT/Computing Societies’ Codes of Conduct to ethical theories.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. comprehend those aspects of computing regulated by the law;
  • 2. grasp the impact of computing and related work practices on society;
  • 3. understand how a Code of Conduct (such as that of the BCS) relates to practical professional dilemmas;
  • 4. appreciate the different perspectives of different ethical theories on issues relating to computing.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 5. recognise where ethical and legal issues apply throughout the subject.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 6. relate reading materials to lecture content;
  • 7. construct a well-structured argument;
  • 8. question assumptions confidently, and critically evaluate competing viewpoints.

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching activities 22Lectures
Scheduled learning and teaching activities 6Seminars and group presentations
Guided independent study54Individual assessed work (summative and formative)
Guided independent study68Wider reading and exam preparation

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Group presentation20 minutes6,7,8Peer and staff evaluation in podium discussion sessions
Formative individual essay1,000 words6,7,8Comments directly on essay and on individual feedback sheet

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Written exam - closed book702 hours1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8Oral, on request
Assessment – group presentation1012 hours6,7,8Group and individual feedback sheet.
Assessment – individual essay201,500 words6,7,8Comments directly on essay and on individual feedback sheet

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
All aboveWritten exam (100%)AllAugust Ref/Def period

Re-assessment notes

Referred and deferred assessment will normally be by examination. For referrals, only the examination will count, a mark of 40% being awarded if the examination is passed. For deferrals, candidates will be awarded the higher of the deferred examination mark or the deferred examination mark combined with the original coursework mark.

Reassessment will be by written exam only. For referred candidates, the mark will be capped at 40%. For deferred candidates, the exam mark will be uncapped, and the candidate will be awarded the higher of the exam mark alone and the exam mark combined with previously obtained coursework marks in the ratio 70:10:20.

Syllabus plan

The syllabus will be based around on the four themes listed below, each individual topic listed will be related to at least one of these themes:

- computers and the law: computer misuse, copyright, patents, data protection, contracts, software ownership, piracy;

- progress and dependence: safety-critical systems & software development, artificial intelligence, computerisation, efficiency, working practices, communication, quality of life;

- individuals vs. society: data protection, Freedom of Information, cryptography, artificial expertise;

- professional issues and doing the right thing: ethical dilemmas, ethical notions (duty, utility, choice), professional codes (e.g. BCS), writing CVs and identifying your own skills.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading


Web based and electronic resources:

  1. ,Computer Ethics: Cautionary tales and ethical dilemmas in computing,Forrester T and Morrison P,2nd,MIT,1994,001.64 FOR,978-0262560733,
  2. ,The Essence of Professional Issues in Computing,Ayres R,1st,Prentice Hall,1999,001.64 AYR,,
  3. ,A Gift of Fire: social, legal and ethical issues for computers and the Internet,Baase S,1st,Prentice Hall,1997,001.64 BAA,,
  4. ,Introduction to Information Technology Law,Bainbridge, David,6th,Pearson Longman,2007,343.410999 BAI,978-1405846660,
  5. ,Ethics for the Information Age,Quinn, Michael J,2,Pearson International Edition,2006,001.64 QUI,,
  6. ,Business Computer Ethics,Langford, Duncan,,Addison-Wesley,1999,174.4 LAN,978-0201342796,
  7. ,High Noon on the Electronic Frontier: Conceptual Issues in Cyberspace,Ludlow P,1st,MIT,1996,001.64026 LUD,978-0262621038,
  8. ,A Gift of Fire: social, legal and ethical issues for computers and the Internet,Baase S,1st,Prentice Hall,1997,001.64 BAA,,
  9. ,Computer Ethics: Cautionary tales and ethical

Module has an active ELE page?


Origin date


Last revision date