Social Computing

COGS 123 Social Computing (Winter 2024)

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 Activities

This course includes readings, peer discussions, lectures and quizzes that cover the material for each week. In addition,  students will actively participate in a group project to innovate and prototype novel social computing experiences. Course activities include:

Course Topics

Course Origins

This course draws on reading lists and syllabi from many institutions. Initial 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 by Eric Gilbert, Online Communities and Amy Bruckman, Social Spaces on the Internet by Karrie Karahalios, Social Computing by Leysia Palen, Social Computing by Juho Kim, Social and Collaborative Computing by Amy Zhang, and Computer-Supported Cooperative Work by Gary Olson, Katie Pine, and many others. Feel free to explore these course syllabi for additional material and papers.  


Steven Dow ( is Associate 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 five 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

Lu Sun is a fifth year PhD student in Cognitive Science Department and the Design Lab. Her research area is Human Computer Interaction and Social Computing. She enjoys playing violin and tennis. She is excited to be a TA this year and she is looking forward to meeting everyone in this fascinating class!

Annapurna Vadaparty is a 2nd year PhD student in the Cognitive Science Department and the Design Lab. Her research area is Human Computer Interaction and Learning Sciences. Outside of research, she plays badminton and paints. She is excited to teach (and learn!) about social computing this year, and is always interested in hearing from students about how they learn best.

Instructional Assistants

Saleha Ahmedi is a fourth year majoring in Cognitive Science, specializing in Design and Interaction. She participated in a spelling bee at the Loft last year for nostalgia's sake. She can't wait to see the cool projects you all come up with!

Allen Chen is a 3rd year studying Cognitive Science, as well as ICAM and Design. If not buried in work, you can catch him rock climbing or indulging in ice cream shops all across San Diego. He is happy to be here as an IA this quarter and is absolutely looking forward to meeting everyone and seeing the cool projects they come up with!

Ryan Eang is a 3rd year Cog Sci Design student. Outside of school, he enjoys going to cafes, playing tennis/table tennis, and going out with friends. This is his first time being an IA, and he's excited to do it for this class.

Rawan Ghazouli is a fourth year student majoring in Cognitive Science, design and interaction specialization, interested in creating meaningful user experiences. She enjoys swimming, reading and visiting new coffee shops! She is excited to be a TA this year and she is looking forward to meeting everyone!


Joyce (Hwieun) Kim is a senior majoring in Cognitive Science specialization in Design and Interaction. She enjoyed reading interesting research papers regarding social computing in Cogs 123. During the break she enjoyed watching baking shows and playing the piano. She is excited to be an IA for COGS 123.

Yi Lu is a fourth-year Cognitive Science undergraduate student with minors in Design and Computational Social Science. Her research interests include Healthcare Design, Techquity, Accessibility, and Ethical Education. During her free time, she enjoys cooking and hiking. She really enjoyed taking COGS123 last year. She can't wait to meet everyone in this class!

Frances Sy is a third-year undergraduate student, pursuing a major in Cognitive Science specializing in Design & interaction and a minor in Marketing. Her experience as a photographer and youth advocate has given her a unique perspective on the importance of amplifying voices and creating inclusive spaces. Currently, she is contributing to the design of an installation aimed at humanizing the housing crisis. Beyond her academic pursuits, Frances finds joy in writing in her journal, bopping to Ariana Grande tunes, and occasionally conquering leg day.

Kimberly Wong is a fourth year majoring in Cognitive Science with a specialization in Design and Interaction and minors in Business and Design. Kimberly has worked on social communities, UI/UX, and user research within government, startup, and various campus environments. After graduation, Kimberly hopes to pursue a masters in Human-Computer Interaction Design or work in the field as a User Experience Designer. In her free time, she enjoys playing indie video games, DJing her favorite music, or trying to find the best boba in San Diego.

Archive of Class Projects