Social Computer Mediated Communication - CS 598  (42378)

Karrie Karahalios
11:00-12:15 WF
1105 Siebel Center
201 Goodwin St.


Communication systems from the optical and electrical telegraph, to the telephone, to messaging over the internet were originally geared towards business applications. As the infrastructure became more commonplace, people adapted social conventions and motivations towards these systems. For example, weddings took place over the telegraph, the telephone migrated from the office and into the home and bedroom, etc.

Packet-switching technologies of the 60ís and early 70ís made it easier to send messages to and from remote computers. Arpanet, starting in 1969, was created with the intent to enable scientists to remotely share resources such as specialized hardware, databases, and programs. This vision of Arpanet became a reality. What was not anticipated, and was quite a surprise, was that the most popular and most used feature of the Arpanet was electronic mail. People could message each other if they were logged on to the same machine or they could leave messages that could be read later. Hence, the beginning of computer-mediated-communication (CMC).

Today, more and more computer-mediated-communication interfaces are in use such as instant messaging systems (MSN, AIM, ICQ) and mobile messaging systems (SMS). Some of these interfaces work well, and some donít. We will look at the social and technical implications of why this is so ó primarily, communication cues over different channels and the importance of interface design. The emphasis of this course is to design and implement computer mediated communication systems that serve a social function.

We will begin by looking at screen based communication systems and current hand-held devices. We will then move away from the traditional screen and hand-held devices and look at interactive objects, wearable interfaces, and communication devices embedded in surrounding space.

This course will combine reading from selected texts, design of new communication systems, and two implementations of completed designs.

  • Example projects include:
  • Building interactive communication tables
  • Building interactive communication spaces
  • Re implementing the mobile phone
  • Visualization tools to extract social cues from communication channels.

    25% class participation
    paper critiques
    25% midterm project
    25% final project