Course: CS 6474 / CS 4803 Social Computing
Term: Spring 2021
Location: BlueJeans (meeting link on Canvas)
Time: Tuesday and Thursday 3:30 – 4:45pm Eastern Time
Office Hours: By appointment via BlueJeans
Teaching Assistant: Sindhu Ernala


This course is geared toward developing a broad understanding of the characteristics of today’s online social systems, including the opportunities and challenges that engender this emergent area. We will focus on the study of different social processes, behavior, and context on today's online social platforms, and learn how to make sense of the vast repositories of data that are generated on these platforms everyday. We will also learn about the design principles behind these systems and the key issues that arise from the widespread adoption of social computing systems in the wild. Learning objectives include:

- Collection and analysis of large-scale social data.
- Exploration of a variety of quantitative methodologies that could be applied to the study of social computing systems.
- Building social tools that augment current social computing systems.
- Apply social data to answer questions in a variety of practical scenarios and domains, such as politics and health.

The course will be taught seminar style, which means there will be weekly readings on a variety of topics (see topics and schedule below), and students will be required to participate in a group term project. There will be no exams, however there are going to be individual assignments which will involve mini individual projects. Students will also be required to participate in discussions on the pre-assigned class readings in a blog (Piazza), in order to demonstrate their understanding of the material, and to raise interesting questions and points for class discussion.

The term project will be 3-4 person group projects. Each student will need to clearly articulate their concrete contribution in the group project. Topic of the project can be picked by the student groups after discussion with the instructor; the instructor will also provide a set of sample project ideas in class materials. If the project requires data analysis, a contribution of the project could be collecting that data, or the students could also use any of the publicly available social datasets available online. Each project will require both original work as well as a small number of compulsory analyses that cover key concepts from the course.

Students may audit the course, but all students who attend must perform the weekly blog posts about the reading, to facilitate discussion.

Required Skills: In terms of prerequisite skills, students need to have basic knowledge of statistics and preliminary machine learning. An overview of the concepts and tools needed will be reviewed as needed, however in-depth coverage of the fundamentals is not in the scope of this course. Students also need to be proficient in programming, in an object-oriented/scripting language (e.g., Python, Perl, Java, C#). Experience in use of a scientific computing software like R is a bonus.

Late Policy. Students need to submit all of their materials on or before the deadline to qualify for 100% credit. For the assignments and term project proposal, milestone report, and final report, 24 hours delay will result in 25% penalty; 48 hours late submissions will incur 50% penalty. Materials submitted past 48 hours will not be accepted, and will entered a zero grade. Check the course syllabus for the deliverables on which late policy is applicable.

Academic Integrity: All assigned work is expected to be individual, except where explicitly indicated otherwise. You are encouraged to discuss the assignments with your classmates; however, what you hand in should be your own work. For more information, please review the Georgia Tech Honor Code.

Mental Health: As college students, it can be hard to prioritize your health, especially when you are pushed to prioritize academics, work, and extracurricular activities. The instructor is happy to talk to you privately if you need mental health related accommodations. Please also refer to the various campus resources to access timely, professional help as well as self-care tips.

Assignments and Grading

Reflections on Assigned Class Readings (any or best 10) - 10% (1% each)
      : Piazza link for reflection submission and asynchronous discussion
      : Due by 11:59pm of the day before the class
      : Sample reading reflections
Class Attendance/Participation - 10%
Assignment I - 8%
Assignment II - 12%
Assignment III [data | resources] - 15%
Term Project - 45%
      : Project Proposal - 5%
      : Project Proposal Lightning Talks - 2%
      : Milestone Report - 10%
      : Final Project Presentation - 5%
      : Final Report - 23%

Weekly Schedule *

Week 1 (Jan 14) Introduction
Assignment I Released
Week 2 (Jan 19) Sociological Background
Week 2 (Jan 21) Sociological Foundations I
Week 3 (Jan 26) Sociological Foundations II
Week 3 (Jan 28) Sociological Foundations III
Discussion of Example Term Projects
Assignment I Due
Week 4 (Feb 2) Social Computing Theories: Public Displays and Performance
Week 4 (Feb 4) Social Computing Theories: Identity
Week 5 (Feb 9) Social Computing Theories: Disclosure and Regulation
Week 5 (Feb 11) Social Computing Theories: Social Capital and Social Influence
Week 6 (Feb 16) Social System Design
Week 6 (Feb 18) Term Project Proposal Presentation
Term Project Proposals Due
Assignment II Released
Week 7 (Feb 23) Analyzing Language I
Week 7 (Feb 25) Analyzing Language II
Week 8 (Mar 2)Online Content Moderation
Week 8 (Mar 4) Social Computing Constructs: Credibility
Discussion of Specs for Milestone Report
Assignment II Due
Week 9 (Mar 9) Misinformation and Disinformation
Week 9 (Mar 11) Social Computing Constructs: Polarization and Selective Exposure
No in-class meeting; see recorded video on Canvas
Week 10 (Mar 16) Semester Recess
Week 10 (Mar 18) Online Abuse and Hate Speech (Guest Lecture)
Milestone Reports Due
Assignment III Released
Week 11 (Mar 23) Benefits/Applications of Social Computing: Health and Well-Being
Week 11 (Mar 25) Benefits/Applications of Social Computing: Politics
Week 12 (Mar 30) Benefits/Applications of Social Computing Systems: Activism and Social Movements
Week 12 (Apr 1) Benefits/Applications of Social Computing Systems: Crisis Informatics
Week 13 (Apr 6)Benefits/Applications of Social Computing: Predictions and Forecasting I
Discussion of Specs for Final Project Deliverables
Week 13 (Apr 8) Benefits/Applications of Social Computing: Predictions and Forecasting II
Week 14 (Apr 13) Challenges of Social Computing Systems: Bias (Guest Lecture)
Week 14 (Apr 15) Challenges of Social Computing Systems: Ethics
Assignment III Due
Week 15 (Apr 20)Challenges of Social Computing Systems: Privacy
Week 15 (Apr 22) Towards 2030: Open Questions in Social Computing (BYOT: Bring Your Own Topic) - Asynchronous Piazza Discussion; No Synchronous Class
Week 16 (Apr 27) Final Project Presentations
Final Project Reports Due on May 4

Weekly Readings *

Week 2 (Jan 21): Sociological Foundations I
An Experimental Study of the Small World Problem [pdf]

Week 3 (Jan 26): Sociological Foundations II
Structural Holes and Good Ideas [pdf]

Week 3 (Jan 28): Sociological Foundations III
The Strength of Weak Ties [pdf]
Predicting Tie Strength With Social Media [pdf]

Week 4 (Feb 2): Social Computing Theories: Public Displays and Performance
The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life: Introduction (PDF file pgs. 6-10) [pdf]
The Presentation of Self in the Age of Social Media: Distinguishing Performances and Exhibitions Online [pdf]

Week 4 (Feb 4): Social Computing Theories: Identity
Identity and Deception in the Virtual Community [pdf]
4chan and/b: An Analysis of Anonymity and Ephemerality in a Large Online Community [pdf]

Week 5 (Feb 9): Social Computing Theories: Disclosure and Regulation
Anonymity and Self-Disclosure on Weblogs [pdf]
Understanding Social Media Disclosures of Sexual Abuse Through the Lenses of Support Seeking and Anonymity [pdf]

Week 5 (Feb 11): Social Computing Theories: Social Capital and Social Influence
The Benefits of Facebook “Friends:” Social Capital and College Students' Use of Online SNS [pdf]
Everyone's an influencer: Quantifying Influence on Twitter [pdf]

Week 6 (Feb 16): Social System Design
Social Translucence: An Approach to Designing Systems that Support Social Processes [pdf]
The Chat Circles Series: Explorations in Designing Abstract Graphical Comm. Interfaces [pdf]

Week 7 (Feb 23): Analyzing Language I
Diurnal and Seasonal Mood Vary with Work, Sleep, and Daylength Across Diverse Cultures [pdf]
Personality, Gender, and Age in the Language of Social Media: The Open-Vocabulary Approach [pdf]

Week 7 (Feb 25): Analyzing Language II
Gender and Power: How Gender and Gender Environment Affect Manifestations of Power [pdf]
No Country for Old Members: User lifecycle and linguistic change in online communities [pdf]

Week 8 (Mar 2): Online Content Moderation
You Can't Stay Here: The Efficacy of Reddit's 2015 Ban Examined Through Hate Speech [pdf]
#thyghgapp: Instagram content moderation and lexical variation in pro-eating disorder communities [pdf]
[Optional] Preventing harassment and increasing group participation through social norms in 2,190 online science discussions [pdf]

Week 8 (Mar 4): Social Computing Constructs: Credibility
Tweeting is Believing? Understanding Microblog Credibility Perceptions [pdf]
Understanding Anti-Vaccination Attitudes in Social Media [pdf]
[Optional] Fighting COVID-19 misinformation on social media: Experimental evidence for a scalable accuracy-nudge intervention [pdf]

Week 9 (Mar 9): Misinformation and Disinformation
Examining the Alternative Media Ecosystem Through the Production of Alternative Narratives of Mass Shooting Events on Twitter [pdf]
The spread of true and false news online [pdf]
[Optional] Social bots distort the 2016 US Presidential election online discussion [link]
[Optional] Social Media and Fake News in the 2016 Election [pdf]

Week 9 (Mar 11): Social Computing Constructs: Polarization and Selective Exposure
Echo Chambers Online?: Politically Motivated Selective Exposure among Internet News Users [pdf]
Exposure to ideologically diverse news and opinion on Facebook [pdf]
[Optional] “I always assumed that I wasn’t really that close to [her]”: Reasoning about invisible algorithms in the news feed [pdf]
[Optional] Partisan selective exposure in online news consumption: Evidence from the 2016 presidential campaign [pdf]

Week 11 (Mar 23): Benefits/Applications of Social Computing Systems: Health and WellBeing
Predicting Depression via Social Media [pdf]
Methodological gaps in predicting mental health states from social media: Triangulating diagnostic signals [pdf]
[Optional] How social media will change public health [pdf]
[Optional] Facebook language predicts depression in medical records [pdf]

Week 11 (Mar 25): Benefits/Applications of Social Computing Systems: Politics
The Political Blogosphere and the 2004 U.S. Election: Divided They Blog [pdf]
Predicting Elections with Twitter: What 140 Characters Reveal about Political Sentiment [pdf]
[Optional] What is Twitter, a Social Network or a News Media? [pdf]
[Optional] "I Wanted to Predict Elections with Twitter and all I got was this Lousy Paper" - A Balanced Survey on Election Prediction using Twitter Data [pdf]
[Optional] Characterizing social media manipulation in the 2020 US presidential election [pdf]

Week 12 (Mar 30): Benefits/Applications of Social Computing Systems: Activism and Social Movements
The revolutions were tweeted: Information flows during the 2011 Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions [pdf]
Social media and the decision to participate in political protest: Observations from Tahrir Square [pdf]
[Optional] False equivalencies: Online activism from left to right [pdf]

Week 12 (Apr 1): Benefits/Applications of Social Computing Systems: Crisis Informatics
Crisis Informatics: Human-Centered Research on Tech & Crises [pdf]
Fifteen years of social media in emergencies: a retrospective review and future directions for crisis informatics [pdf]
[Optional] Social media and emergency preparedness in response to novel coronavirus [pdf]

Week 13 (Apr 6): Benefits/Applications of Social Computing Systems: Predictions and Forecasting I
Predicting Stock Market Indicators Through Twitter “I hope it is not as bad as I fear” [link]
Private traits and attributes are predictable from digital records of human behavior [link]
[Optional] Prediction and explanation in social systems [link]

Week 13 (Apr 8): Benefits/Applications of Social Computing Systems: Predictions and Forecasting II
Exploring Limits to Prediction in Complex Social Systems [pdf]
The parable of Google Flu: traps in big data analysis [pdf]

Week 14 (Apr 15): Challenges of Social Computing Systems: Ethics
Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks [pdf]
A taxonomy of ethical tensions in inferring mental health states from social media [pdf]
[Optional] Unexpected expectations: Public reaction to the Facebook emotional contagion study [pdf]

Week 15 (Apr 20): Challenges of Social Computing Systems: Privacy
Data, privacy, and the greater good [pdf]
Beyond the Belmont principles: Ethical challenges, practices, and beliefs in the online data research community [pdf]
[Optional] “We Are the Product”: Public Reactions to Online Data Sharing and Privacy Controversies in the Media [pdf]

* Topics to be covered and the corresponding readings are subject to change. Please always check the online schedule.