Carnegie Mellon
School of Computer Science

Dr. Carol Frieze

Office: Gates 4111
Phone: 412-268-9071

email: cfrieze @

Images of Computing

When and Where:

Undergraduate Course 15-296
Spring 4
Monday, Wednesday, 9.00 - 10:20am
Room: GHC 4102

Instructor: Dr. Carol Frieze
Units: 5 (mini)

Course Description:

“Image is important. As long as teenagers believe that computer science is boring, difficult, antisocial, or doesn’t have much impact on solving the world’s problems, they’re unlikely to choose it for their future.”
       [WGBH Market Research Report,]

"(T)here is a pressing need to broaden participation in the study of computer science and attract the full range of talent to the field, regardless of ethnicity, gender, or economic status. Institutions should make efforts to bring a wide range of students into the computer science pipeline and provide support structures to help all students successfully complete their programs."
[Computer Science Curricula 2013, p.47]

In this research and project based course we will explore computing from a cultural perspective and look in particular at the images of computing. We will examine how the field is represented in the popular culture of the USA and how such representations might affect public attitudes, access to resources, understanding of computer science, and participation in the field. We will pay particular attention to how bias impacts participation in computing, and address our own biases, especially unconscious bias. We will reflect on some issues often taken for granted e.g. are our attitudes to computing culturally specific or universal?

This course is aimed primarily at students who are interested in exploring some of the broad issues of computer science and who would like to direct their interests towards creative activities for broadening participation. Students will gain experience in teamwork, teaching and presenting. We will use academic papers, web sites, group discussion/debate and popular media.


Students will be graded on the quality of their performance in 3 research and reflection papers (35% of final grade) and a semester group project (40% of final grade).

Class attendance, presentations and participation are critical to doing well in this course and will count for 25% of the final grade.

Preliminary Syllabus

Part One: Culture, Images, and Computing

    • Introduction and Overview
    • What are the issues?
    • Participation in Computer Science: Data from the USA
    • What do we mean by Culture?
    • Why are Images important?
    • What do we mean by Computing and/or Computer Science?
    • Teamwork

Team Presentations
Guidelines for Discussion

Potential Readings:

Research and Reflection Paper 1.: Deadline: TBA

Part Two: Stereotypes, Bias, and Challenges for CS

  • What is unconscious bias?
  • Stereotypes and Bias
  • Bias, Technology, and Diversity
  • Broadening Participation in Computer Science: Why does this Matter?
  • Team Presentations

Potential Readings:

Research and Reflection Paper 2.: Deadline: TBA

Part Three: A Global Perspective on Computing

  • Case studies from other countries and cultures. Team Presentations
  • Are there different levels of participation in computing and computer science in other countries?
  • Why might this be?
  • Is computing perceived differently in different countries and cultures?

Potential Readings:

Research and Reflection Paper 3.: Deadline: TBA

Semester Group Projects

    "Computer science is nothing less than a new way of thinking; explaining it to the wider world is critical to the future of the field." [S. Arora, B. Chazelle, Communications ACM 48 (2005), 31-33]

Presentation Deadline: TBA
Report Deadline: TBA

  • Presenting New Images of the Field and the People in it with the goal of broadening participation in computing
  • Discussion of Project.
  • Present to the class
    Factors to consider:
    • What are your aims?
    • Who is your target audience? e.g. elementary students, middle school, high school, college level students, parents, teachers, people with disabilities?
    • What is your focus?
    • How will you measure impact?

**ACADEMIC INTEGRITY: Important Must Read**

Guidelines for Readings, Presentations and Discussion

Guidelines for Papers

Presentations: Be prepared to discuss/present:

-- a brief summary of the paper
-- the main argument/points made by the author
-- the evidence given to support the argument
-- any key words/phrases
-- what questions are raised?
-- what did you learn?
-- what did you find particularly interesting?
-- do you agree/disgree with the argument made by the author?
-- in what way(s) does the paper relate to this class?
-- any other points ....


Take care of yourself

Do your best to maintain a healthy lifestyle this semester by eating well, exercising, avoiding drugs and alcohol, getting enough sleep and taking some time to relax. This will help you achieve your goals and cope with stress.

All of us benefit from support during times of struggle. You are not alone. There are many helpful resources available on campus and an important part of the college experience is learning how to ask for help. Asking for support sooner rather than later is often helpful.

If you or anyone you know experiences any academic stress, difficult life events, or feelings like anxiety or depression, we strongly encourage you to seek support. Counseling and Psychological Services (CaPS) is here to help: call 412-268-2922 and visit their website at Consider reaching out to a friend, faculty or family member you trust for help getting connected to the support that can help.

Carol Frieze: Home Page