Friday, June 29, 2012

Find: Interesting new center: the Intel Science and Technology Center for Social Computing

Announcing the Intel Science and Technology Center for Social Computing

We are excited to announce today a new Intel Science and Technology Center for Social Computing, the 7th in a series of partnerships between the corporation and leading US universities.  The University of California, Irvine will be the main site for this distributed research organization, in collaboration with research groups at Cornell University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Indiana University, and New York University.  The center is co-lead by principal investigators Paul Dourish (Professor of Informatics, UC Irvine) and Scott Mainwaring (senior research scientist, Interaction and Experience Research, Intel Labs).  Bill Maurer (Professor of Anthropology and Associate Dean of the School of Social Sciences, UC Irvine) serves as academic co-PI, and Rajiv Mathur (University Collaboration Office) is the Program Director.

Social Computing is the study of information technologies and digital media as social and cultural phenomena.  While this has always been the case since the beginnings of the computing industry, the rise of social networking systems, Web 2.0, cloud and embedded computing, and the proliferation of ways and places to access digital media, this value, indeed necessity, of this perspective is increasingly clear.  For example, the tremendous success of Facebook and Twitter can only be understood as much the result of social processes as technological ones.  This and many other cases point to the pervasive entanglement of the social and technical worlds, and a pressing need for new paradigms for the design and analysis of technologies, paradigms that are rooted in the theories and methods of the social sciences and humanities as much as they are in engineering and the hard sciences.


For too long, social scientists and technologists have worked as if their domains were essentially independent.  In certain special cases the two communities have come together, productively, to understand and build devices, products, and services that could not be realized without such collaboration.  In the 70s and 80s, as time-sharing and PCs brought computing power to mass audiences, we saw the rise of human-computer interaction, and new or newly prominent professions like “human factors engineer” and “interaction designer”.  Likewise in the 90s and 00s, the rise of the consumer-based internet economy required and built upon different kinds of dialogs between technologists and people-focused disciplines like “ethnographic consumer research” and “experience design”.


Technology is now instrumental in defining who we are, how we think about ourselves and our lives, and how we act individually and collectively.  With sensors, clouds, and pervasive possibilities of access, we no longer have to actually use technology to be affected by it.  Can you really remain unaffected by Facebook even if you opt out of it, if your friends, relatives, and future employers incr...

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