RES.TLL-008 | Spring 2023 | Non-Credit

Social and Ethical Responsibilities of Computing (SERC)

Ethical Computing and Practice

6.170 Software Studio

Authors: Daniel Jackson, Arvind Satyanarayan, Serena Booth

Resources: 5 assignments with SERC design reflections; module lecture on responsible design; final project

Keywords: software design, local government, ethical assessment

6.864 Quantitative Methods for Natural Language Processing

Authors: Jacob Andreas, Catherine D’Ignazio, Harini Suresh

Assignment: “Dataset Creation”

Keywords: data annotation; natural language processing; machine learning; content moderation

Topics addressed:

  • Critical assessment of how and by whom a given dataset was created
  • What its limitations might be
  • What the data should and should not be used for

6.390 Introduction to Machine Learning (Formerly 6.036)

Authors: Leslie Kaelbling, Serena Booth, Marion Boulicault, Dheekshita Kumar, Rodrigo Ochigame, Tess Smidt

This course introduces principles, algorithms, and applications of machine learning from the point of view of modeling and prediction; formulation of learning problems; representation, over-fitting, generalization; classification, regression, reinforcement-learning, sequence learning, clustering; classical and neural-network methods.

The course has weekly labs, in which students work in pairs and have an opportunity to discuss their work with an instructor during a check-off process. Each weekly lab has an accompanying SERC question and discussion prompt. These SERC questions aim to help the students connect the technical content of the class to the social consequences of seemingly-technical design decisions. 

Weekly Labs: 4 weekly labs, each with a SERC question and discussion prompt

Keywords: machine learning; bias and fairness in machine learning; data bias; model bias

6.031 Software Construction

Author: Rob Miller, Abby Jaques 

Lecture Module: “Moral Lenses Case Study” 

Keywords: Software Construction

Module Goals: A reading and class activity to explore the implications of a proposed change to change the ranking algorithm for posts on a social media site, and examine:

  • What are the main benefits it will or may provide, and to whom?
  • What are the main harms it will or may cause, and to whom?
  • How could you maximize the benefits and minimize the harms, and ensure that they are distributed fairly?                                             

MIT Case Studies in Social and Ethical Responsibilities of Computing

Brief, specially commissioned and peer-reviewed cases intended to be effective for undergraduate instruction across a range of classes and fields of study. Some cases are paired with active learning projects developed by students at MIT and reviewed by faculty and senior researchers.

Winter 2023

Algorithmic Fairness in Chest X-ray Diagnosis: A Case Study, by Haoran Zhang, Thomas Hartvigsen, and Marzyeh Ghassemi (MIT)

Keywords: algorithmic fairness, deep learning, medical imaging, machine learning for health care

The Right to Be an Exception to a Data-Driven Rule, by Sarah H. Cen and Manish Raghavan (MIT)

Keywords: data-driven decision-making, rights and duties, individualization, uncertainty, harm

Summer 2022

“Porsche Girl”: When a Dead Body Becomes a Meme, by Nadia de Vries (University of Amsterdam)

Keywords: digital death, bodies, memes, online abuse, Nikki Castouras

Privacy and Paternalism: The Ethics of Student Data Collection, by Kathleen Creel (Northeastern University) and Tara Dixit (Chantilly High School, Virginia)

Keywords: user data privacy, student data, contextual integrity, educational technology, children’s rights, surveillance

Winter 2022

Protections for Human Subjects in Research: Old Models, New Needs?, by Laura Stark (Vanderbilt University)

Keywords: human-subjects research, informed consent, institutional review boards, big data

Summer 2021

Hacking Technology, Hacking Communities: Codes of Conduct and Community Standards in Open Source, by Christina Dunbar-Hester (University of Southern California)

Keywords: open source software, diversity and inclusion, community governance, gender, race, values in computing, codes of conduct

Identity, Advertising, and Algorithmic Targeting: Or How (Not) to Target Your “Ideal User”, by Tanya Kant (University of Sussex)

Keywords: targeting, advertising, algorithms, identity, profiling

Winter 2021

Who Collects the Data? A Tale of Three Maps, by Catherine D’Ignazio (MIT) and Lauren Klein (Emory University)

Keywords: redlining, social inequality and oppression, missing data, counterdata, matrix of domination, who questions

The Case of the Nosy Neighbors, by Johanna Gunawan and Woodrow Hartzog (Northeastern University)

Keywords: user data privacy, technology in norm enforcement, facial recognition, mass surveillance, mass scraping of public data

Active Learning Projects Developed at MIT

Active Learning Project: Exploring the Functionalities, Data and Interfaces of a Modern Online Advertising System (PDF - 1.1MB) (DOCX - 3.2MB)

An exercise to explore the ethical implications of digital advertising, grounded in the functionalities, data, and interfaces driving ad systems in the modern era. This lab focuses on Facebook’s Ads Manager.

  • Associated case study: Kant, T. (2021). Identity, Advertising, and Algorithmic Targeting: Or How (Not) to Target Your “Ideal User.” MIT Case Studies in Social and Ethical Responsibilities of Computing, (Summer 2021).
Active Learning Project: Active Learning Project on Developing Codes on Conduct (PDF) (DOCX)

An exercise in developing a code of conduct for a team-based course in Github-hosted project repositories. 

  • Associated case study: Dunbar-Hester, C. (2021). Hacking Technology, Hacking Communities: Codes of Conduct and Community Standards in Open Source. MIT Case Studies in Social and Ethical Responsibilities of Computing, Summer 2021.

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2023
Learning Resource Types
Lecture Notes
Instructor Insights
Multiple Assignment Types