Social Computing
Creating sociotechnical systems that shape our urban environments.

We build software that shapes our cities. More specifically, (1) we create micro-institutions in physical space; (2) we design social processes that allow others to replicate and evolve those micro-institutions; and (3) we write software that enables those social processes. We use this process to create more robust, decentralized, human-scale systems in our cities. We are particularly focused on reinventing our current systems for learning, agriculture, and transportation.

Research Projects

  • Storyboards

    Sepandar Kamvar, Kevin Slavin, Jonathan Bobrow and Shantell Martin

    Giving opaque technology a glass house. Storyboards present the tinkerers or owners of electronic devices with stories of how their devices work. Just as the circuit board is a story of star-crossed lovers—Anode and Cathode—with its cast of characters (resistor, capacitor, transistor), Storyboards have their own characters driving a parallel visual narrative.

  • The Dog Programming Language

    Salman Ahmad, Zahan Malkani and Sepandar Kamvar

    Dog is a new programming language that makes it easy and intuitive to create social applications. Dog focuses on a unique and small set of features that allows it to achieve the power of a full-blown application development framework. One of Dog’s key features is built-in support for interacting with people. Dog provides a natural framework in which both people and computers can be given instructions and return results. It can perform a long-running computation while also displaying messages, requesting information, or even sending operations to particular individuals or groups. By switching between machine and human computation, developers can create powerful workflows and model complex social processes without worrying about low-level technical details.

  • Wildflower Montessori School

    Sepandar Kamvar and Mary F. Rockett

    We envision a store-front school integrated in a community of learners. The Cambridge-based Wildflower Montessori School is a pilot Lab School and the first in a new network of learning centers. Its aim is to be an experiment in a new learning environment, blurring the boundaries between coffee shops and schools, between home-schooling and institutional schooling, between tactile, multisensory methods and abstract thinking. Wildflower will serve as a research platform to test new ideas in advancing the Montessori Method in the context of modern fluencies, as well as to test how to direct the organic growth of a social system that fosters the growth and connection of such schools.

  • You Are Here

    Sepandar Kamvar, Yonatan Cohen, Wesam Manassra, Pranav Ramkrishnan, Stephen Rife, Jia Zhang, CK Ong, Edward Faulkner and Kim Smith

    You Are Here is an experiment in microurbanism. Our 2011 Skissernas Museum show, Boundaries, included pieces written in Dog that gave museum visitors constrained micro-suggestions to make marks on the wall, resulting in interactive, collective wall drawings. You Are Here takes this idea to the urban scale. We intend for You Are Here to be shown in 100 different cities; each show will consist of a series of data visualizations, each of which gives a collective portrait of one aspect of life in the city. These visualizations are designed to help people understand small things that they might do to heal their city. Our intent is to create a collective, dynamic, urban-scale piece. Our hope is that by disseminating these visualizations, we will give communities meaningful micro-suggestions on how best to shape their own cities, which in turn affect the visualizations themselves.