Computing That Serves

Technology Mediated Social Participation


Thursday, March 15, 2012 - 11:00am


Derek Hansen

Assistant Professor of Information Technology, BYU


Christophe Giraud-Carrier

The ubiquity of social technologies such as Facebook, Twitter, and wikis has enabled new forms of interaction that occur at a pace and scale never before possible. A growing number of organizations and social causes are using these technologies to harness the energy, skills, and creativity of volunteers to improve the public good. Wikipedia and the Encyclopedia of Life provide open access resources; PatientsLikeMe collects and shares social support and health data for research; Family Search Indexing crowdsources the annotation of genealogical resources; Kiva facilitates micro-loans by matching donors with those in need; and gamers and hobbyists help solve scientific puzzles. Though inspiring examples abound, new approaches that combine computational tools and human volunteer effort will enable us to serve the public good in ways we can hardly imagine. In this talk I will identify some key research questions and strategies related to this area. These will be illustrated with examples from my work on developing novel tools to analyze social relationships (e.g., NodeXL), promoting mass collaboration in volunteer communities (e.g., Lostpedia, FamilySearchIndexing), and creating novel socio-technical platforms that encourage citizen engagement (e.g., BioTracker, ACTion Alexandria).


Derek L. Hansen is an Assistant Professor at Brigham Young University's Information Technology program in the School of Technology ( He was formerly at the University of Maryland’s iSchool where he directed the Center for the Advanced Study of Communities and Information ( and was a member of the Human Computer Interaction Lab ( Dr. Hansen completed his PhD from the University of Michigan’s School of Information where he was an NSF-funded interdisciplinary STIET Fellow ( focused on understanding and designing effective online socio-technical systems. His research focuses on the design and analysis of social technologies for the public good.