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Microcredential

Computational Social Science

University of California, Davis via Coursera Specialization

Overview

For more information please view the Computational Social Science Trailer Digital technology has not only revolutionized society, but also the way we can study it. Currently, this is taken advantage of by the most valuable companies in Silicon Valley, the most powerful governmental agencies, and the most influential social movements. What they have in common is that they use computational tools to understand, and ultimately influence human behavior and social dynamics. An increasing part of human interaction leaves a massive digital footprint behind. Studying it allows us to gain unprecedented insights into what society is and how it works, including its intricate social networks that had long been obscure. Computational power allows us to detect hidden patterns through analytical tools like machine learning and to natural language processing. Finally, computer simulations enable us to explore hypothetical situations that may not even exist in reality, but that we would like to exist: a better world. This specialization serves as a multidisciplinary, multi-perspective, and multi-method guide on how to better understand society and human behavior with modern research tools. This specialization gives you easy access to some of the exciting new possibilities of how to study society and human behavior. It is the first online specialization collectively taught by Professors from all 10 University of California campuses.

Syllabus

Course 1: Computational Social Science Methods
- This course gives you an overview of the current opportunities and the omnipresent reach of computational social science. The results are all around us, every day, reaching from the services provided by the world’s most valuable companies, over the hidden influence of governmental agencies, to the power of social and political movements. All of them study human behavior in order to shape it. In short, all of them do social science by computational means. In this course we answer three questions: I. Why Computational Social Science (CSS) now? II. What does CSS cover? III. What are examples of CSS? In this last part, we take a bird’s-eye view on four main applications of CSS. First, Prof. Blumenstock from UC Berkeley discusses how we can gain insights by studying the massive digital footprint left behind today’s social interactions, especially to foster international development. Second, Prof. Shelton from UC Riverside introduces us to the world of machine learning, including the basic concepts behind this current driver of much of today's computational landscape. Prof. Fowler, from UC San Diego introduces us to the power of social networks, and finally, Prof. Smaldino, from UC Merced, explains how computer simulation help us to untangle some of the mysteries of social emergence.

Course 2: Big Data, Artificial Intelligence, and Ethics
- This course gives you context and first-hand experience with the two major catalyzers of the computational science revolution: big data and artificial intelligence. With more than 99% of all mediated information in digital format and with 98% of the world population using digital technology, humanity produces an impressive digital footprint. In theory, this provides unprecedented opportunities to understand and shape society. In practice, the only way this information deluge can be processed is through using the same digital technologies that produced it. Data is the fuel, but machine learning it the motor to extract remarkable new knowledge from vasts amounts of data. Since an important part of this data is about ourselves, using algorithms in order to learn more about ourselves naturally leads to ethical questions. Therefore, we cannot finish this course without also talking about research ethics and about some of the old and new lines computational social scientists have to keep in mind. As hands-on labs, you will use IBM Watson’s artificial intelligence to extract the personality of people from their digital text traces, and you will experience the power and limitations of machine learning by teaching two teachable machines from Google yourself.

Course 3: Social Network Analysis
- This course is designed to quite literally ‘make a science’ out of something at the heart of society: social networks. Humans are natural network scientists, as we compute new network configurations all the time, almost unaware, when thinking about friends and family (which are particular forms of social networks), about colleagues and organizational relations (other, overlapping network structures), and about how to navigate delicate or opportunistic network configurations to save guard or advance in our social standing (with society being one big social network itself). While such network structures always existed, computational social science has helped to reveal and to study them more systematically. In the first part of the course we focus on network structure. This looks as static snapshots of networks, which can be intricate and reveal important aspects of social systems. In our hands-on lab, you will also visualize and analyze a network with a software yourself, which will help to appreciate the complexity social networks can take on. During the second part of the course, we will look at how networks evolve in time. We ask how we can predict what kind of network will form and if and how we could influence network dynamics.

Course 4: Computer Simulations
- Big data and artificial intelligence get most of the press about computational social science, but maybe the most complex aspect of it refers to using computational tools to explore and develop social science theory. This course shows how computer simulations are being used to explore the realm of what is theoretically possible. Computer simulations allow us to study why societies are the way they are, and to dream about the world we would like to live in. This can be as intuitive as playing a video game. Much like the well-known video game SimCity is used to build and manage an artificial city, we use agent-based models to grow and study artificial societies. Without hurting anyone in the real world, computer simulations allow us explore how to make the world a better place. We play hands-on with several practical computer simulation models and explore how we can combine hypothetical models with real world data. Finally, you will program a simple artificial society yourself, bottom-up. This will allow you to feel the complexity that arises when designing social systems, while at the same time experiencing the ease with which our new computational tools allow us to pursue such daunting endeavors.

Course 5: Computational Social Science Capstone Project
- CONGRATULATIONS! Not only did you accomplish to finish our intellectual tour de force, but, by now, you also already have all required skills to execute a comprehensive multi-method workflow of computational social science. We will put these skills to work in this final integrative lab, where we are bringing it all together. We scrape data from a social media site (drawing on the skills obtained in the 1st course of this specialization). We then analyze the collected data by visualizing the resulting networks (building on the skills obtained in the 3rd course). We analyze some key aspects of it in depth, using machine learning powered natural language processing (putting to work the insights obtained during the 2nd course). Finally, we use a computer simulation model to explore possible generative mechanism and scrutinize aspects that we did not find in our empirical reality, but that help us to improve this aspect of society (drawing on the skills obtained during the 4th course of this specialization). The result is the first glimpse at a new way of doing social science in a digital age: computational social science. Congratulations! Having done all of this yourself, you can consider yourself a fledgling computational social scientist!

Courses

Taught by

Martin Hilbert

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Reviews

4.8 rating, based on 71 reviews

Start your review of Computational Social Science

  • Profile image for Minjoo Lee
    Minjoo Lee

    Minjoo Lee completed this course, spending 10 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be medium.

    This course exceeded my expectations tremendously! I was able to learn from professors from every UC campus which gave me expertise knowledge in every area. When I signed up for the course I immediately understood that this course is perfect for people...
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    I took this course through UC cross enrollment 2 years ago . The course content was very up-to-date, and included guest lectures from professors from a very wide range of disciplines, so it would be interesting to students regardless of their majors. Despite not being a student in the social sciences (my majors are in humanities and arts,) this class has equipped me with a lot of basic digital literacy (e.g, present issues of privacy with photo filter apps, epidemic modeling) that has been helpful in everyday life. I hope Prof. Hilbert can make more of his classes available.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    Having taken this course as an undergraduate, I can honestly say that this course effectively simplified complex concepts through practical projects. Computational Social Science might seem 'scary' at first, but Dr. Hilbert managed to provide diverse content, superb guidance, and enough flexibility to be creative to make the learning experience sufficiently challenging and extremely rewarding. Whether you're taking this course as first-timer or seasoned researcher, one can narrow or expand their interests while maintaining a comprehensive learning experience.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    This is an excellent course for beginners just learning about computational social sciences, or for those looking to brush up on their knowledge. The course is nicely laid out, with each section featuring an interactive lab relating to social network analysis, that helps you apply what you have learned in a fun, effective way. I highly recommend this course to anyone interested in careers involving social network analysis or human behavior.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    This class taught me so much. The most valuable part I found, unfortunately is during this recent pandemic. I found that after taking this class my understanding of the developing social transmission was increased. The assignments helped me understand the graphics being used, because we created similar basic ones in this class.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    Each of the courses in the specialization was very rich in content. It has been very interesting to learn the application and interdependence of every aspect covered in this specialization.

    More importantly, Prof. Hilbert is very engaging, very well versed with this specialization and lastly..very hilarious! He makes an otherwise tough specialization very enjoyable!

  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    It would be better if instructor speak more formal.
    As learner with English as a second language, prefer meaningful sentences with clear pronunciation!
  • Anonymous
    I consider the course is very useful, I hope I can learn deeper knowledge about complex network with more mathematical fashion.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    This course opened an entirely new area of communication studies that fascinated and intrigued me. If you look at the course before starting, a lot of it may seem very advanced and difficult to understand but watching the lectures carefully and really...
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    I've never given a course a 5/5 before but this one really deserves it. I've based my review on the following points: - it introduces a new, multi-disciplinary, complex topic but in a way that is very clear - They use a step by step approach to take you...
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    Here are some notes I made throughout the course which I would like to share in order to improve the experience for future students: 1. For all the YouTube videos we were instructed to watch, there was no way to click on the link. I had to pause the...
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    As an animal scientist, I did not have much experience with computational social science. But with this course, I know feel like I have a good foundation and understanding of concepts from agent based modeling to natural language processing. I thought...
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    I have completed two specialisations and taking several other specialisations and courses on the Coursera platform and by far I enjoyed this specialisation the most. Part of my enthusiasm comes from my background. I studied qualitative social science,...
  • Anonymous
    The Computation Social Science series was excellent! I enjoyed all of the individual subjects and appreciated the way the entire series was put together. The professor was fantastic. His knowledge was evident from the beginning, but even more helpful was his enthusiasm for the material and for helping learners. It is hard to be effective online. Martin's approach and style made the course one of the best online or live I have participated in.
    I learned a lot. I have a social science background but the computational part was new -- I now feel prepared to dive deeper into the computation side of things and will certainly continue my studies in this way
    Thank you for an excellent experience!
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    I took this course during my sophomore year and it has the most inspiring lectures and course materials that assisted me in my decision on what I want to do in the future. It gave a brief introduction to programming and digital technology, which was a lot of new information for me as a sophomore. But I liked learning about them (I'm interested in this field). Moreover, in the later courses that I took, I came by quite many materials that I learned in this course (Computational Social Science). I would definitely recommend taking this course if you are interested in this field or want to learn about it!
  • Anonymous
    understanding technologies such as artificial intelligence , big data , machine learning and computer simulation from the prospective of social scientists was very effective and exciting . I learned about two fields ( my interest was the technologies ) but the gain was huge to me .

    social issues and challenges faced but different culture and societies were always on my mind. this course bring a methodology of testing and compiling a semi acceptable theories in any field of interest without the expenses and lengthy time to conduct research.

    i recommend this course to everyone

  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    Thank you. I really enjoyed the course. It gave me a good general overview of social network analysis, and now I know how to proceed with more in-depth studies. From the course I’ve managed to get a grasp of both practice and theory. It is definitely a very good introduction, and I would recommend it to anyone interested in social science reasearch. Regardless of whether you need this for your analysis, I believe it is useful to understand the concepts and developments in this developing field. It will give you a good sense of its applications and usefulness in research.
  • Anonymous
    I really enjoyed the professor's style and appreciated the chance to try the concepts on my own and then check to see if I got it right. By slowing down and going over all the things I did not understand or get right when given a problem, I could feel myself learning, correcting my mental model and gaining confidence. I think the level at which this course was pitched was perfect for me, having read a lot of narrative accounts of networks, but never having delved into the mathematics, theory and simulation of them.
  • Anonymous
    Very good course and specialization. As a practitioner in social science, I learned a lot that can help me in my work and career, but this is not only for people like me. This is for everyone who wants to understand the world, understand what tools are currently available, and what possibilities are there to solve the problems in the personal level, societal level and global level. The lecturers are also engaging and entertaining. Highly recommended for everybody. Four thumbs up!
  • Anonymous
    It's an extremely useful and enjoyable specialization for me. I found all the courses highly relevant to practical application. The material is well organized and lecture delivery is superb. The best part is the involvement of all instructors from different campuses which makes the online learning highly useful. I'd definitely recommend this specialization to anyone who's interested in solving real life problems and wanted to bring some positive contribution to this world.

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