Prof. Steven Dow
Winter 2017, 
T/Th 2:00-3:20 pm
Location:  HSS 1346

This course explores the intersection of social behavior and computational systems. The growth of online environments like Facebook, Wikipedia, Twitter, Instagram, WhatApp, blogs, online support groups, open-source development projects, and crowdsourcing platforms shows that web technology is not just about delivering information, but also connecting people. Social Computing is the study of social processes and the technology that supports and augments it. Students will examine a range of organizational, technical, and business challenges related to social computing, and learn how to use tools to analyze, design, and build online communities. Social computing draws from fields as diverse as cognitive science, software engineering, artificial intelligence, sociology, anthropology, psychology, and organizational behavior.

Course work will include lectures, class discussion, homework, class presentations, and a group research or design project. 

Learning Objectives

Students will gain an overview of social computing applications and research topics. Students will read, discuss, and present key papers in the field. Each week, students will report on a social experience with a different type of technology. 

Designing technologies for social interaction. Students will learn basic design skills for brainstorming, prototyping, and evaluating social technology. As part of a team project, students will prototype new social computing experiences during in-class studio time.

Measuring impact using online analytics. Students will learn about what impacts the spread of social artifacts and how to measure reach.

Course Topics

  • Online collaboration, awareness, coordination
  • Social data mining and analysis
  • Interaction design and research methods
  • Mobile web, urban computing
  • Online experimentation
  • Games, virtual communities
  • Crowdsourcing/human computation
  • Distributed innovation
  • Peer production systems
  • Citizen science, crisis informatics

Course Origins

This course draws on reading lists and syllabi from many institutions. The most direct inspiration comes from the Social Web course taught at CMU by Jeffrey Bigham, Robert Kraut, Jason Hong, and Niki Kittur. It also combines aspects of Social Computing and Online Communities by Eric Gilbert and Amy Bruckman, Social Spaces on the Internet by Karrie Karahalios, Social Computing Systems by Walter Lasecki, and Computer-Supported Cooperative Work by Gary Olson, Katie Pine, and many others. 


Steven Dow is an Assistant Professor of Cognitive Science at UC San Diego where he researches human-computer interaction, social computing, and creativity. Steven received the National Science Foundation CAREER Award in 2015 for research on "advancing collective innovation." He was co-PI on three other National Science Foundation grants, a Google Faculty Grant, Stanford's Postdoctoral Research Award, and the Hasso Plattner Design Thinking Research Grant. Before UCSD, Steven was an Assistant Professor of Human-Computer Interaction at Carnegie Mellon University. He holds an MS and PhD in Human-Centered Computing from the Georgia Institute of Technology, and a BS in Industrial Engineering from University of Iowa.

Teaching Assistants

Amanda Song is a PhD candidate in the Department of Cognitive Science. Her research interests lie at the intersection of human computation, computer vision, and cognitive science. Her current research focuses on understanding social perceptions of images with deep learning models using social-media game experiences.

Akanksha Grover is a Masters student in
Computer Science and Engineering, planning to specialize in Systems and Artificial Intelligence. Prior to this, she worked in industry for two years as a Software Engineer developing financial software where she learned how social processes intersect with technology.

Arushi Nigam is a third year double major in Cognitive Science, specializing in Design and Interaction, and International Business. She loves to play with her dog, travel, and watch movies. She is excited to be your IA and looks forward to a great quarter!