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The HCI Institute’s Social Computing Lab explores research at the intersection of social science, computer science, and design. As soon as computers were connected in networks, people used them to connect socially, to exchange information and advice, and to form groups. The field of HCI emerged from the intersection of cognitive psychology and computer science, but early in the field’s development, researchers recognized that computing has amazing potential to support groups, organizations, and society as a whole. Social computing refers to the support of social behavior through computational systems. It involves the analysis of the goals of social units (dyads, groups and organizations), the design of technology to support those goals, and the analysis of how groups and organizations use technology. The “social” behavior in social computing ranges from two people having a discussion in email, to small online group research collaborations, to Wikipedia communities and open source software, to “friending” behavior on Facebook, and to player guilds on World of Warcraft.  Social computing overlaps with other research areas connected with HCI, such as CSCW, computational social science, socio-technical systems, and social informatics. It is an interdisciplinary area formed from social sciences, computer science and engineering, design, information systems, and organization science.
Topics of research include:

  • Interpersonal communication
  • Crowdsourcing
  • Future of work
  • Collaborative software development
  • Computer supported collaboration
  • Online communities
  • Social impact of technology

The CMU Social Computing Lab conducts empirical studies of how social issues surrounding technology. We are developing theory to understand behavior and to inform design of social computing technologies. We also build systems to help online communities and groups operate better, including tools for visualizing online activity and managing crowdsourcing workflows. The group often collaborates with researchers at other universities, such as the University of Michigan, the University of Minnesota, the University of Pittsburgh, the University of California Berkeley, and Northwestern University, and encompasses researchers with a broad range of expertise, such as social psychology, economics, design, and computer science.