Overview & requirements

05-772: Social Perspectives on HCI 2015
Course site: http://socialmini15.hciresearch.org/

Instructor: Robert Kraut 
Email: robert dot kraut @ cmu dot edu
Location: GHC 4301
Time: Tues & Thurs 10:30A-11:50A

Course Description

This is a seminar-style exploration of the innovations and challenges that have been tackled by the pioneers in Human-Computer Interaction over the past 60 years. Although the first conference in Computer-Supported Cooperative Work was in 1986, scientific and engineering studies examining how information and communication technologies (ICTs) are used and can be used by groups of people is far older, perhaps starting with Englebart’s research on computer-enhanced teleconferences and cooperative editing in the 1960s, research on video conferencing by British Telecom’s Communications Studies Group in the 1970, thru research in the 1980s and 90s on media spaces, chat rooms and bboards, virtual communities, knowledge management systems in organizations, to the current time with research on online games, crowdsourcing, large-scale social interaction and “collective intelligence”.

The material in this class would be of value to anyone interested in classic and cutting edge work representing the history and future of social approaches to human-computer interaction in particular and information systems more broadly. It is one of a series of four, seminar style mini-courses covering four distinct traditions in HCI--computer science, cognitive science, social science, and design.

Each week, we will discuss one or two important areas. In the class itself, there will be reviews of readings, discussions assessing the value of the research and identifying research questions that flow from the research. A major emphasis in class discussion will be to compare methodological and empirical approaches to socially-oriented HCI research. You'll read three to four articles to prepare for each class session (i.e., 7-8 articles per week). Papers have been selected either because they frame a sub-area, are one of the earliest, best papers in the sub-area, show cutting edge research or represent different approaches to the sub-area. While the course can't possibly cover every important paper that has been published in the last 4 decades, it will try to focus on pioneering work and the research traditions that have followed from it. We will try to cover enough areas to give a sense of the breadth of socially-oriented research on human computer interaction and information systems.

 Required Texts

There are no required texts for this course. There will be readings assigned for each class, all of which will be available online. For password protected articles, the userid and password will be distributed in class. The course is a reading-heavy seminar, with 6 articles assigned per week.  Even if you can't read every paper in detail, you should be familiar with each article before class.  Here are some tips on reading that may be helpful.

 Course Requirements

1. Participation. Reading the assignments and participating in class discussion, both in class and online, are essential.

  • Discussion leader. Last semester, in the Cognitive Mini, students were responsible for summarizing and leading discussion on discrete readings.  The protocol for the Social Mini will be a little differ.  In the Social Mini, two students will organize and lead the discussion for each class. The goal is encourage discussions that compare and contrast the readings for a single class session and to show how they fit into an intellectual context.  This means that in addition to carefully reading the assigned articles for the week, discussion leaders should skim some of their references, to see where it was coming from, use Google scholar or other tools to see where more recent research has taken the area and draw comparisons of your article to other articles assigned for the course. Feel free to plan your context-setting with the course instructor in person or by email. You can assume that your fellow students have read each article, so you don't need to summarize an article in detail unless the article is especially difficult to understand or pre-class forum activity indicates that others are missing important points or misunderstanding the article.  Instead, focus your summary of the article about the main points you want the class to discuss and how these tie into the larger research landscape. Post slides for your presentation before class on the course website. All students in the class will have editing rights to the syllabus page.    Each student in the class will be co-discussion leader for two class sessions.  You can sign up for the topic to moderate here.
  • Forum comments. Post a reflection essay on the course forum, by noon the day before class at the latest. The discussion leaders should start the thread, with one or more reflective essays that can either focus on the individual readings or the readings as a collection.  Other students can respond to the discussion leaders' reflection essays or start their own. We'll start the semester with each student needing to post only a single reflection per class, but I reserve the right to up the ante, if this doesn't seem to be working.   Pre-class comments will be very helpful to the discussion leaders.  
  • Attendence. Because of the discussion-based nature of the class, the fact that this is a “mini” over only seven weeks, with only 12 class meetings, it is imperative that you attend every class.  In line with this, a fairly strict attendance policy will be enforced which will be incorporated into your class participation grade.  Because many of you are beginning researchers we realize that you may have professional commitments such as attending a conference.  Consequently, an “absence for professional reasons” (approved in advance) will be excused.  Absences due to legitimate illnesses will of course also be excused.  However, beyond the first excused absence, you may have to take an incomplete in the course with additional (onerous) assignments as makeup for the missed work.  Please discuss any planned absences with the instructor as soon as possible.  Note that in the case of an excused absence you are still expected to do the readings and to provide your two required comment postings by the normal deadline.

2. Literature review providing the intellectual background and the next steps in research on a focused topic relevant to this course.  A course web providing more details about the literature review is availabe at http://socialmini15.hciresearch.org/content/literature-review..

One page abstract & preliminary reference list due April 12th.

Final paper due midnight, May 3rd.

3. Improve a Wikipedia article related to the course and your literature review.  As a supplement to your literature review, you will write or improve a relevant Wikipedia article.  This assignment has several goals: First,  This is an authentic assignment, in the sense that someone other than the instructor and your roommate will read what you have written. Second, since Wikipedia is a major resource the public uses to learn about science and technology, by contributing to Wikipedia, you will be improving the public good. Third, writing for Wikipedia will help you better understand the role of audience and genre in academic writing.; A literature review is designed to synthesize  material and express the author's personal perspective of strenght, problems and opportunities in the literature to date; it is geared towards an academic audience.  In writing for Wikipedia, your goal is to just present the "facts" without injecting our personal perspective (i.e., adopt a "neutral point of view"); the audience comprises laymen, not scholars.  Fourth, because we are reading about the success of online communities and entry of newcomers into them, the Wikipedia writing assignment will give you first-hand insight. Finally and not least of all, this assignment provides an incentive for you to do background reading for your literature review by the middle of the course.

There are multiple ways of improving an article, for example, improving the writing, updating content and references so that they reflect the current state of knolwedge or adding a new linked article that goes into detail on a topic treated only superficially in the main article.  It is hard to estimate how substantial a project this assignment will be.  I'm anticipating that you will write at least 3 or 4 paragraphs or their equivalent in smaller fragments scatter around the article you are improving, incorporating material from 7-10 of the articles you are reading for your literature review.  However, you may decide that you need to re-organize exisitng material in the article or add a whole new, linked article.  

To document your work, post a link to the version of the article before you made your revision and a link to the version incorporating your revision.   You should make your changes & post your link by end of the day, Sunday, April 19.

Here are some links you might find useful in editing Wikipedia.

4. Final exam. The final exam will be a take -home, open -book, essay exam. You can schedule your exam in any 24 hour period you want, starting May 3rd and ending 8AM May 9th. Because different students will be getting their exam at different times, please do not discuss the exam or share it before 8AM on May 9th.