Social Computing
How to design large-scale social systems.

In 2005, mankind created 150 exabytes of data. In 2010, we created 1,200 exabytes. The task of organizing this information is a technical challenge; the task of making meaning of this information is a social and cultural one. The Social Computing group works on models for information processing that work from both angles. We build sociotechnical tools that aim to create substantive human connections as part of the process of data analysis. Our current focus is on developing programming languages for social computation.

Research Projects

  • 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, Mary F. Rockett and Catherine McTamaney

    We envision a store-front school integrated in a community of learners. The Cambridge-based Wildflower Montessori School is a pilot Lab School and a 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

    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.