Prof. Steven Dow
Spring 2018, 
T/Th 9:30-10:50am
Location:  HSS 1330
Office Hours:
Prof. Dow: Tues 11-11:45am HSS 1346
TA Erika Barbosa: Thu 8:30-9:30am HSS 1346
TA Amanda Song: Fri 10-11am CSE 4154
IA Gustavo Umbelino: Thu 12-2pm CSE B240A
IAs: Fri 4-5pm in SSRB 100

This course explores the intersection of social behavior and computational systems. The growth of online environments like Facebook, Wikipedia, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp, 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, Social Computing by Leysia Palen, 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.

Erika Barbosa is a doctoral student in Art Theory, Criticism and Practice at UCSD. She is a design researcher and digital media artist. Her practice-based research takes interest in the genealogies of emerging technology, and the impact of historical ideologies on forms of contemporary data discrimination. Her MFA thesis explored the technological and tactical landscape of policing in the United States through the lens of design history and practice. Video works from this research will be on view at the Femmes Video Art Festival during Miami Art Week, December 2017. She has exhibited locally and internationally.

Instructional Assistants

Gustavo Umbelino is a fourth year undergrad studying Computer Science and Psychology. He hopes to get into a PhD program by the end of the year. His research interests are social computing, social psychology, and computer networks. He is looking forward to meeting everyone! 

Evan Schmitz is a fourth year Cognitive Science major with minors in Design and Computer Science. He hopes to take what he’s learned at UCSD to create effective instructional and educational technologies. He will be applying to an MS or PhD program next year. On the weekend, you can find him catching up on work he put off earlier that week. 

Manav Sahani is a fourth year undergrad honors student studying Human Computer Interaction and Financial Engineering. He is interested in improving organizational workflows by applying techniques from human computer interaction and social computing. He looks forward on meeting everyone! 

Lauren Gong is a fourth year studying Cognitive Science, specializing in Human Computer Interaction. Currently, she is enjoying using design to solve interesting and complex problems in the field of educational design. In her free time she can be found boxing, watching sports, and exploring the many cafes in San Diego.

Patricia Shao is a third year studying Cognitive Science, specializing in Human Computer Interaction, with a minor in Computer Science. She’s interested in creating empathetic designs to enhance the big and little experiences in life. During her free time, she can be found eating at Convoy or napping at the beach.

Archive of Class Projects