The Computational Social Science (CSS) major educates students to build, compute, and improve theoretically-informed models of social processes, bridging domain and technical expertise. This major will prepare students to understand, engage with, and innovatively solve evolving, complex multi-scale societal challenges such as climate change, transnational political violence, cybersecurity and privacy, social polarization, labor economics, and inequality. This major will draw on and enhance Pitt's strength in both social science theory, broadly construed, as well as computing, informatics, and networked systems. Students will gain an understanding of modern computational tools and resources and social, political, and economic concepts from core social science classes.
The CSS major is 52/53 credits and comprises of different categories of requirements. The first category is a required Mathematics class: MATH 0220: Calculus and Analytic Geometry 1. This class needs to be completed with a C or better grade in order to declare the major. All other required classes should also be completed with a C or better grade. The different categories and the classes for the major are as follows:
- Foundational Classes
The foundational courses introduce students to enduring puzzles in social science research, emerging themes of computational social science, and the approaches that social scientists and information & network scientists use to solve problems. This section consists of eight required courses that will provide foundations of subject matter knowledge and the basic computational tools that are relevant to social scientific theories and empirics.
1. Required Introduction to CSS Class
2. One Introduction to Social Science Class (choose 1 class)
- PS 0200: American Politics
- PS 0300: Comparative Politics
- PS 0500: International Relations
3. Four Classes Introducing Computational Approaches and Basic Tools
Two required classes
Pick any two classes from
- INFSCI 0410: Human Centered Systems
- INFSCI 0610: Networks and Information
- INFSCI 1500: Database Management Concepts and Applications
4. One Social Science Research Design
- PS 0700: Research Methods in Political Science
5. One Class Modeling Social Interactions and Motivations
- PS 1250: Games, Politics, and Strategy OR
- PS 1514: Political Strategy International Relations
- Ethics and Computational Social Science
This section of the major will expose students to critical debates on the ethics of governance, computing, and technological change. Issues covered will include tradeoffs between privacy/security and censorship/freedom, as well as topics related to surveillance, propaganda, cyber-security, and regulation. The goal is to expose students to both the moral and social consequences of technology at a conceptual level, and the specific technical implementations that cause potential social problems (e.g., packet-sniffing) and could potentially expand the space for solutions (e.g., differential privacy).
Select two courses from the following:
- CMPINF 1205: Comparative Digital Privacies
- CS 0590: Social Implications of Computing Technology
- INFSCI 1600: Security and Privacy
- PS 1693: Political Theory and Future Analysis
- INFSCI 1049: Introduction to Information Security
- PS 1675: Politics of Human Rights
- Intermediate Techniques Applied to Social Science Content
The third set of requirements will empower students to use computational tools to explore enduring social science puzzles and theories at scale. These paths are not meant to be formal areas of concentration, but options to gain competence in more focused areas. For example, some students might be interested in applying data mining techniques to problems in campaigns in American politics. Other students might want to focus on cyber-security and international relations. The course sets in computational techniques, domains, and analytics are organized to broaden interest in the major. Together, these courses allow our students to earn an evolved understanding of how computing and digital tools can be used in government, businesses, and NGOs.
Two Computational Skills Classes
These classes specifically focus on relevant computational skills, including data mining, the web, visualizations, social computing, and advanced security and privacy.
Select two of the following courses to satisfy this subset:
- INFSCI 1440 - SOCIAL COMPUTING
- INFSCI 1520 - INFORMATION VISUALIZATION
- INFSCI 1530 - DATA MINING
- INFSCI 1550 - SPATIAL INFORMATION
- INFSCI 1570 - NETWORK AND WEB DATA TECHNOLOGIES
- INFSCI 1620 - ADVANCED SECURITY AND PRIVACY
Two Domain Specialization Classes
Students will delve deeper into their domain specialization with two classes in that area. One class should pair with the theme chosen for the student’s Introductory Social Science Class (under Foundational Classes). Students then chose another substantive class that can be outside the previous theme. Select two domain specializations classes from the themes below. Although only a few classes are listed for each theme, more are options available to students. Students should refer to the major’s academic advisement (degree progress) report for a complete list of course options.
American Politics: Some courses offered within the 1200-range are approved domain specialization courses to pair with PS 0200.
Comparative Politics: Some courses offered within the 1300-range are approved domain specialization courses to pair with PS 0300.
International Relations: Some courses offered within the 1500-range are approved domain specialization courses to pair with PS 0500.
- One Integrated Analytics Content Class
The final section in this requirement will marry a deep analytical component, such as predictive analytics, causal inference, game theory, data visualization, and other topics with complicated social problems such as inequality, trade, climate change, political violence, or polarization. The class will focus on integrating computational tools into the measurement of core social science concepts, including democracy, human rights, happiness, and peace. There will be a focus on using text and images as data.
Select one of the courses from PS 1291-1299, PS 1391-1399, PS 1591-1599, PS 1691-1699 or PS 1702 as detailed here.
- Application Development Capstone
The major culminates in the production of a research project that uses computational tools to create a) an online, interactive data visualization, b) a replicable research report that uses unstructured data or c) a module/library. In all cases, the project will engage with, or help to resolve, an important social problem. This project can be created through independent or directed research, or in one of the classes listed below. All students will present their projects as digital posters to faculty, alumni, and potential employers from around the Pittsburgh area at an end-of-the-year event.
Select one of the following courses:
- INFSCI 1700 - DATA-DRIVEN COMMUNICATION
- INFSCI 1710 - DIRECTED RESEARCH
- INFSCI 1730 - INDEPENDENT STUDY
- INFSCI 1740 - TEAM-BASED CAPSTONE PROJECT
- INFSCI 1720 - INTERNSHIP
- PS 1900 - INTERNSHIP
- PS 1901 - INDEPENDENT STUDY
- PS 1903 - DIRECTED RESEARCH
To receive the honors designation within the major upon graduation, a 3.7 GPA is required across all major classes and a 3.5 Cumulative GPA overall.