IST 343: Data in Society (Honors)

Professor Bryan SemaanIn this section of IST 343 designed for Honors students, we will critically examine how individuals, groups, and society create and are created by digital data and algorithms. Students will explore social, political, legal, and professional issues across varying contexts including social media and the Internet of Things.

Our contemporary information environment is fully ‘mediatized’, which means that most of what we know as well as how we work, participate in civic and political life, shop, find entertainment, fall in love, maintain our friend and family ties, and learn are done through digital media. The consequence of this is a deep wealth of behavioral data—likes, clicks, shares, comments, views—that marketers, tech giants, businesses, the entertainment industry, the medical industry, politicians, and government now actively use to segment, target for persuasive messaging, and predict future behavior of the public. This course introduces students to the variety of techniques of data gathering and segmentation, and the social, economic, political, and cultural implications of the increasingly data-driven society we live in. This course aims to help students think critically and ethically about the role of data in everyday life.  Head over to the Honors program course listing to see more details about this course.


Professor Bryan Semaan is an Assistant Professor in the School of Information Studies at Syracuse University, where he is a founding member of the Behavior, Information, Technology, and Society (BITS) Laboratory. He is interested in the general areas of human-computer interaction (HCI), computer-supported cooperative work (CSCW), and social computing.

Bryan’s research lies broadly at the intersection of the computer sciences and the social sciences. In an effort to address critical social issues through the advancement of empirical understanding, theory, and design, the overarching goal of his research is to examine the role of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in enabling resilience amongst people immersed in challenging contexts. Specifically, his research focuses on those with marginalized identities: people who are pushed to the boundaries of society based on various intersections of their identity, such as race, class, gender, or sexual orientation (e.g. LGBTQ identifying individuals “coming out”, veterans seeking mental health care, and forming a political identity). Bryan’s approach to this work is sociotechnical–he considers people and their social relations to be intimately bound up in the digital and material technologies they use. He focuses his empirical, conceptual, and design work to influence and shape the discourses in the broad field of human-computer interaction (HCI). At one time, HCI was a subfield of the computer sciences, but the field is now seen more broadly as focusing on understanding how to best design and implement user-centered systems which address a range of social needs across contexts. Like many in HCI, his goal is to advance the uses of ICTs for the social good.

To realize this agenda, Bryan employs a sociotechnical approach whereby he explores the complex relationship between ICTs and human behavior by drawing on various social science theories and methods. His research draws on and expands upon theories from various disciplines, such as Gender Studies, Science and Technology Studies (STS), Feminist STS (FSTS), Organizational Science, Psychology, Sociology of Disaster, Trauma and Counseling and Political Science. Moreover, he integrates qualitative, quantitative, and computational analysis to understand the activities of populations immersed in these challenging contexts. He employs participatory design, speculative design, and design science approaches to further uncover complex social processes and effects and to identify and pursue impactful design opportunities that empower and/or improve the lives of citizens.

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