Social Computing

Facebook, Twitter, and shared calendars are now embedded in the fabric of everyday life, but countless other applications have yet to be discovered and perfected, each potentially enhancing the way we interact. Applying knowledge from psychology, economics, and sociology, Social Computing students craft, evaluate, and refine social software computer applications for engaging technology in unique social contexts. Advances in computing have created opportunities for studying patterns of social interaction and developing systems that act as introducers, recommenders, coordinators, and record-keepers. Students in this track develop analytical and problem-solving skills useful in business, software development, and the information industry and are prepared for graduate study in areas including information science, business, and law.

All Social Computing students are required to take:

Track Courses (13 credits)

The following courses: Credits Offered *
PSYCH 280 Introduction to Social Psychology
This course introduces students to the field of social psychology by covering such topics as: social inference, schemas, attribution, conformity and obedience, altruism, stereotypes and prejudice, interpersonal attraction, aggression, and attitudes and persuasion. Students are evaluated by means of exams and classroom contributions, and through papers. Instructional methods include assigned readings, lectures, films, demonstrations, and weekly discussion sections.

Enforced prerequisites: PSYCH 111 or PSYCH 112 or PSYCH 114 or PSYCH 115 or PSYCH 116 and STATS 350.

4 F, W
SI 301 Models of Social Information Processing
This course focuses on how social groups form, interact, and change. We look at the technical structures of social networks and explore how individual actions are combined to produce collective effects. The techniques learned in this course can be applied to understanding friend systems like Facebook, recommender systems such as Digg, auction systems such as Ebay, and information webs used by search engines such as Google. This course introduces two conceptual models, networks and games, for how information flows and is used in multi-person settings. Networks or graph representations describe the structure of connections among people and documents. They permit mathematical analysis and meaningful visualizations that highlight different roles played by different people or documents, as well as features of the collection as a whole. Game representations describe, in situations of interdependence, the actions available to different people and how each person's outcomes are contingent on the choices of other people. It permits analysis of stable sets of choices by all the people (equilibrium's). It also provides a framework for analysis of the likely effects of alternative designs for markets and information elicitation mechanisms, based on their abstract game representations. Assignments in the course include problem sets exploring the mechanics of the models and essays applying them to current applications in social computing.

No prerequisites, but prior programming experience is recommended.

3 W
SI 422 Evaluation of Systems and Services
Any product--whether a website, a technological system, or an electronically mediated service--benefits from evaluation before, during, and after the development cycle. Too often, the people who use a product cannot find what they want or accomplish what they need to do. Products are more successful when they are developed through a process that identifies how the products will be used, elicits input from potential users, and watches how the product function in real time with real users. This course provides a hands--on introduction to methods used throughout the entire evaluation process--from identifying the goals of the product, picturing who will use it, engaging users through a variety of formative evaluation techniques, and confirming a product's function through usability testing and summative evaluation. Specific methods include personas and scenarios, competitive analysis, observation, surveys, interviews, data analysis, heuristic evaluation, usability testing, and task analysis. Students will work on group projects that apply these techniques to real products in use or development.

No prerequisites.

3 W
SI 429 eCommunities: Analysis & Design of Online Interaction Environments
This course is intended to give students a background in theory and practice surrounding online interaction environments. For the purpose of the course, a community is defined as a group of people who sustain interaction over time. The group may be held together by a common identity, a collective purpose, or merely by the individual utility gained from the interactions. An online interaction environment is an electronic forum, accessed through computers or other electronic devices, in which community members can conduct some or all of their interactions. We will use the term eCommunity as shorthand, both for communities that conduct all of their interactions online and for communities that use online interaction to supplement face-to-face interactions.

There will be two main treads that weave through the course, based on the two main texts. One tread will be concerned with the practical issues of design and use of online tools to support communities, and how choices that must be made in design can impact the function and style of the resulting community. The second tread will focus on the sociological theory that provides a frame to better understand communities in general. These theoretical pieces will provide a lens for better understanding the implications of choices made on the more practical level.

No prerequisites.

3 W

* Courses have been historically offered as indicated (F = Fall, W = Winter). Terms in which courses are offered are, however, subject to change.

Note: Students may enroll in track courses prior to completing all prerequisite and core courses.

Elective Courses (15 credits)

Eight [8] elective credits must be at the 300 level or higher, and all electives should be selected in consultation with a faculty advisor. See the list of approved concentration electives.