A central aspect of this course will be reading and discussing papers from the field of Social Computing. The goal here is to learn about the history and innovations in social computing in order to build on the prior work. To actively engage the material, students will read and critically assess papers before class and write posts for the class online discussion forum. During class, twice per quarter, students will prepare a short summary and activity for a paper. We expect active participation during discussions and activities.

To summarize discussion roles:

  • Each week everyone is expected to read all the papers on the syllabus (see Advice on Reading).
  • Once per week, each student should comment on one paper (see Online Comments).
  • Twice per quarter, sign up to prepare a short presentation and activity related to a paper (see Paper Presentations). In weeks that you present a paper, you do not need to do Online Comments.

Key Links:

  • All papers as PDFs. The PDF folder is a protected folder. You should be able to log in with your UCSD gmail account. If you prefer to use your non-UCSD gmail account, just send a request through the Google folder or ask the TA to give you access.
  • Discussion Sign Up sheet. Sign up here to present two papers per quarter.
  • Presenters can create Google Slides in this folder. Include a link to your slides in the discussion signup sheet.
  • Piazza discussion forum. Post your Online Comments here (as well as your experience reports).

Advice on Reading Academic Papers:

Reading research papers effectively can seem daunting at first, but like any skill it can be mastered with practice. Expect to spend an hour reading and thinking about each paper. Review this article for advice on how to read academic papers to extract the gist of a paper, how to read critically, and how to use the paper as a way to start thinking creatively in the research area.

Online Comments:

Each discussion group is assigned to comment on one paper per week. Each student should read the assigned paper in depth and post a discussion comment (just 1-2 paragraphs) within the dedicated Piazza thread for that paper. Your post should meaningfully contribute to the ongoing discussion about the paper, trying to build on and extend what others have already commented on, much like you would in a group discussion in person. Make sure that you are making a unique contribution to the thread by reading all the posts before yours. Online discussion posts may include:

  • Summarizing the paper's main ideas and discussing why they matter
  • Saying what you learned or what surprised you about the material
  • Critiquing the paper in terms of methodological, logical, technical, and ethical issues
  • Pointing to other relevant work, such as additional papers for others to read
  • Discussing how you might extend or improve the work
  • Writing discussion questions for others, or responding to others' questions


  • Online comments should be posted before class on the day that we discuss that paper.

Grading scale for online comments:

We will grade online comments on a simple 3-pt scale, giving each student an opportunity to earn up to 24 points (8 weeks of papers) for online commenting. Students may earn another 6 points for verbal contributions during in-class discussions. These two parts together comprise the commenting portion of your grade.

  • 3 pts: Your comment exhibits a strong effort to enhance our understanding of the paper, builds on your peers' comments thus far, and makes a connection to other materials (readings, videos, lectures, discussions...), from either in class or outside of our class, that enhance our understanding of the concepts in the paper.
  • 2 pts: Your comment exhibits a satisfactory effort to enhance our understanding of the paper, only alludes to other comments thus far, or does not enhance our understanding of the concepts using additional materials (readings, videos, lectures, discussions...).
  • 1 pt: Your comment exhibits minimal effort, is not connected to the discussion thus far or in the class or provides only a superficial analysis of the paper.
  • 0 pts: if you did not make a report or posted your report after the time deadline
  • Learning bonus for replying to comments that discuss, critique, argue against, or respond to your original post.

Paper Presentations:

Twice per quarter, in teams of 2-4 people, students will present a paper and lead a discussion and activity (~15 minutes total). Presenters are responsible for creating a Google slide deck, prompting questions, facilitating the class discussion, and running an in-class activity. Here what you need to do:

  • Read the paper thoroughly (and the other readings for that day). Also, read your peers' online comments on Piazza before class.
  • Work with your partner to create a Google slide deck for your presentation. Keep the presentation relatively short (~5 minutes), just briefly summarizing the main points of the paper, and bringing in additional material to help give the topic more context. Make your slides visual interesting, including figures from the paper and from other sources. Do not just copy and paste text into slides. Your goal is to highlight the main theme and show how it relates to what’s happening today. Showing related real-world examples is often a good idea.
  • Lead an in-class discussion (~5 minutes) by asking questions or throwing out provocative statements that prompt a fruitful discussion around the paper and activity. Good discussion questions often do not have a clear answer and elicit different perspectives. Avoid yes/no questions. Ask questions that provide something concrete for students to respond to: "If we take the paper's suggestion and design Facebook with X, what would be the expected benefits and drawbacks?" or "Can you give examples of where X was used in a social computing system?"
  • As part of your presentation, design a short interactive activity (~5 minutes) for students to practice and apply the concepts related to the class topic and papers. Examples might include a short design exercise, a simulated crowdsourcing task, a survey that everyone fills out, a group discussion activity, etc. Asking students to work in small groups (2-5 people) is a good idea. Feel free to get creative and include physical materials (e.g., paper or post-it) or use digital tools (e.g., Google forms for collecting responses, Google docs for collaborative document editing). A good activity often asks students to generate a concrete artifact.
  • After your presentation, submit a final presentation to Canvas. Iterate on your slide deck to incorporate any feedback and to add key insights from the online discussion. Include a slide to reflect on what worked and did not work during the interactive activity.


  • Google slides must be linked on the discussion sign up sheet before class. Your final slide deck should be posted to Canvas by Friday of the week of your presentation.
  • You should be present on the day of your presentation. No late presentations are allowed.

Grading for Paper Presentations:

Presentations will be graded using the following breakdown:

  • Summary and Analysis (15%): How well did you cover the main points in the paper? To what extent does the presentation include examples and references to other work to help contextualize the main points in the paper?
  • Discussion (15%): Did you facilitate an engaging and deep discussion around the topic? Did students actively participate in the discussion? Were your questions and prompts well thought out?
  • Activity (30%): Did you design an engaging activity that reflects the topic of class? Did students actively participate in the discussion? Were your instructions clear? Is time well-managed? Did the post-activity discussion point to the main lessons?
  • Presentation (30%): How well did the overall presentation go? This includes the organization, your delivery both verbally and visually, level of preparation, quality of material, fluidity of discussion, and peer students' reaction.
  • Iteration and reflection (10%): To what extent did you iterate on the final presentation after class? How thoughtfully did you reflect on your in-class activity?

Here are two good example presentations.