Honors 288Q: The Psychology of Social Networking and Social Computing

Course Description: This course takes on the new era of social computing, cyberspace, and social networking from a psychological perspective. First, we will identify the sphere of social computing in terms of applications and websites such as Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Second Life, and YouTube and in terms of functionalities such as chat (text and video), postings (text, images, and video), blogs, and playing online games.

Second, we will review a number of psychological issues that come to play in social settings and particularly in computer mediated communication such as the feeling and effects of anonymity, dissociation, social equalization, immersion, and impression management and formation. We will look at both quantitative and qualitative methods of analyzing social networks in terms of psychological theory.

Third, we will discuss a number of the ethical issues and privacy concerns raised in social computing. We will consider the problems of cyberbullying and cyberpathologies. We will discuss the misuse of personal information by governments, corporations, and the news media through data mining of social information as well as the problem of hackers and cybersecurity.

Finally, we will look at ways that we can use social computing for positive social change, advocacy, and support groups. We review psychological principles and “best practices” for website design, promotion of the site, and growth of the community.

The psychology of video games is actually a very big topic, bigger than one semester, but we will try to cover as much as possible. We will pool our resourses. Many of you may be experts in particular video games but know nothing about others.

Textbooks and Materials:

Tentative list of books:

Celia Pearce, et al. Communities of Play: Emergent Cultures in Multiplayer Games and Virtual Worlds.

Carl Timm and Richard Perez, Seven Deadliest Social Network Attacks.

Clara Smith, The Facebook Era: Tapping Online Social Networks to Market, Sell, and Innovate (2nd Edition).

James Surowiecki, The Wisdom of Crowds.

Readings from sources such as the following:

Azy Barak (Editor), Psychological Aspects of Cyberspace: Theory, Research, Applications.

Norman, K. L. (2008). Cyberpsychology: An introduction to the psychology of human/computer interaction. Cambridge Unviersity Press.

Zachary Birchmeier, Ebth Dietz-Uhler, Garold Stasser (Editors), Strategic Uses of Social Technology: An Interactive Perspective of Social Psychology.

Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychological Research on Cyberspace.

Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking.

Assigned readings should be completed by the day listed on the syllabus so that lectures and discussion will be relevant.

Exams: A midterm and a final will be given. Each exam will be a combination of multiple choice, short answer, and essay. Both exams will be given online in the Teaching Theater.

Assignments: Periodic assignments will be given. These must be completed online and submitted online. These will involve small projects, short writing assignments, and online discussions.

Class Participation: You are expected to attend all classes. If you are or plan to be absent, you are to submit an electronic excuse. You are to log into the system at the beginning of each class period and participate in all online exercises and discussions in class and out of class.

Course Grade:

Instructor: Dr. Kent L. Norman
Office: BPS 3123F
phone: (301) 405-5924
email: klnorman@umd.edu