Readings are subject to change. Please always check the online reading schedule.

CS 6451: Human-Centered Computing (Fall 2018)

Instructor: Rahul C. Basole
Email: basole at gatech
Office: TSRB 332
Office Hours: After class, or email for an appointment.
Location: TSRB 223
Time: Tuesday & Thursday 9:30 – 10:45am
Schedule: Class and reading schedule

Learning Objectives

This class provides an introduction to the field of Human-Centered Computing. It is designed for incoming, first semester HCC PhD students.

This class introduces students to theoretical readings that inform the School of Interactive Computing’s approaches to Human-Centered Computing. The class is recommended for students with a theoretical bent. Master’s students considering a PhD in the future may enjoy this class. If you are an interdisciplinary student mainly seeking a general introduction to how computing systems for humans are designed, then the class you are looking for is most likely CS 6750, Human-Computer Interaction.

Topics covered include an introduction to a wide range of theories, and their application to the design of interactive computing systems, including:

Wherever possible, we try to pair a theoretical reading with an application of that theory to human-centered computing. The applications papers are not necessarily foundational to the field, but are good examples of the use of theories and illustrate theory’s relevance.


A goal of this course is to expose incoming HCC PhD students to the majority of the HCC Core Reading List. These readings along with those from the student’s specialization are the bases for the first day of the qualifying exam. Another subset of the list is covered in HCC 3.

The HCC Core Reading List also includes a number of books but you do not have to buy them for this class. We will provide copies of the material that is required.

Of Bicycles, Bakelites, and Bulbs: Toward a Theory of Sociotechnical Change | by Wiebe Bijker
Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation | by Jean Lave & Etienne Wenger
The Sciences of the Artificial (3rd Edition) | by Herbert Simon
Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach | by Russell & Norvig
The Interpretation Of Cultures | by Clifford Geertz
The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life | by Erving Goffman
Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things | by George Lakoff

Assignments and Grading

Class participation also includes homework (HW) assignments. The point of these HW assignments is to guide you in extracting information that will be relevant to the class discussion for that day. HW assignments will earn a check (), check plus (), check minus (). Most HWs will receive a "check" this means well done, good extraction and synthesis. A "check plus" means you did a great job, provided some insight. A "check minus" means the contribution met the minimal expected standard for graduate work, no insight but I can tell you read the material. If students do not meet the minimal requirements for homework they will receive an "X".

Book Review Assignment (3%): You will be asked to pick a book to read from the HCC reading list. You will be expected to prepare a set of PowerPoint slides that summarize the main points of the book and contextualize it in the HCC space. In addition you will be asked to prepare a 15-minute class presentation. This assignment will be graded out of 100. This assignment will generally earn a 90/80/70. Most reflections will receive an 80% -- that means a well-done, good reflection. A 90% means "you did a great job." A 70% means the contribution met the minimal expected standard for graduate work, no insight, but I can tell you read the material.

Class attendance is required. This is a small class, so please email the instructor in advance if you can’t attend for some reason. Legitimate reasons for missing class include illness (please keep your germs to yourself – we’ll give you good notes–we promise!), a job interview, or attending a conference. Excuses that will not be accepted include for example picking someone up at the airport, having something due in another class, or having furniture delivered.

Grade Overview for Participation

Due Start of class, the day the reading is assigned. One reading reflection each week (Weeks 3–13)
Format 12pt font, double-spaced. Keep them in a binder, numbered by week (most current week on top)
Length Approximately 1–2 pages

Pick an assigned course reading and write a one to two page ‘reflection’ on that reading. Each reflection should include

  1. a summary of the important points (perhaps why these are interesting to you),
  2. some extrapolation to other readings or themes in the class, and
  3. a personal commentary (is it relevant for your work in some way? had you read material outside of this class that this relates to?, does it touch on some current event?)

You should also attempt to provide some insight into how the readings are related, how they effect your understanding of HCC or your research approach. The reflection maybe about one reading, or you may compare and contrast more than one.

While it’s OK to say some critical things about the paper, keep in mind that you can rip everything to shreds. The best paper has flaws. It’s a better use of your time to focus on what is good about a paper than what is wrong with it.

Each reflection will be graded out of 100. You can earn up to 20% of your entire grade via reading reflections. Reading reflections will be associated with the readings in Weeks 3–13. Reflections are due at the start of class on the day the reading is assigned, and will not be accepted late. Each reflection will generally earn a 90/80/70. Most reflections will receive an 80% -- that means well done, good reflection. A 90% means "you did a great job." A 70% means the contribution met the minimal expected standard for graduate work, no insight but I can tell you read the material.

The purpose of the mini-project is to allow you to explore the breadth of research that is being performed by faculty in the Human-Centered Computing program. You may want to make it a goal of your mini-project to explore a discipline that is outside of your immediate research interest or area.

Due See class schedule
Format 12pt font, double-spaced
Length < 3 pages

Write an “elevator pitch” proposal for a research project you would like to do. As succinctly as possible, describe the research questions and methods you will use. Why is this work interesting?

You will deliver your elevator pitch in-class. It should be no more than one or two minutes long.

Due See class schedule
Format 12pt font, double-spaced
Length 10–12 pages

Write a proposal for a research project.

Begin by stating the research question(s) and why they are important. Next, review the literature in this area. Next, describe the methods you will employ. Finally, describe risks of the project. What is hard about this work? What difficulties might you anticipate, and how will you address them? What are minimal contributions that are expected from this work

This should be directly related to your ‘elevator pitch’ idea.

Note that the instructor has included due dates for drafts of the various parts of the research proposals. These are meant to give the student feedback throughout the semester. Students will get a grade for the final document and there will be no opportunities to "improve" the sections past this date.

Grading Criteria


Assignments will be graded out of 100 and according to the criteria listed for each assignment that could include quality of writing, completeness, insight into technical issues, insight into social issues, etc.

Late Policy

Assignments are due at the start of class on the day they are due. Over the course of the term, you have three “late days” where work may be late with no explanation needed. Once you have used up your late days, late assignments will be penalized at a rate of 5 pts (e.g., 10 points from A to B) per day. Assignments more than one week late will not be accepted. Reading reflections may not be late.

Honor Code

This class abides by the Georgia Tech Honor Code. All assigned work is expected to be individual, except where explicitly written otherwise. You are encouraged to discuss the assignments with your classmates; however, what you hand in should be your own work.

Other Important Issues

Use of Laptops in Class

Some people like to use laptops in class to take notes. I personally prefer to take notes on paper, because I find if my laptop is open I end up getting too distracted. Please think carefully about whether using a laptop in class is the right choice for you. Whatever you decide, please do not do anything that distracts your fellow students or the professor. In particular, please do not check emails and social media or play video games during class.

Course Evaluation

Course evaluations are an important part of how we improve the educational experience at Georgia Tech. We take your feedback very seriously, and use it to improve classes for future years. In a small class like this one, the Dean expects 100% participation on the course evaluation. If you take this class, you agree to complete your course evaluation at the end of the term. Thanks in advance–your input is really helpful!

If you need help dealing with larger issues than this class

If you are struggling to manage with your life at Georgia Tech, there are resources that you can draw upon. The Georgia Tech Counseling Center is staffed by psychologists and mental health counselors. They offer brief, confidential counseling and crisis intervention services to students, and after-hours on-call counselors to speak and consult with students in crisis. They also offer a series of workshops for managing stress.

The Stamps Health Services offers psychiatrist services to students and spouses. Call 404-894-2585 or visit the second floor of Student Health Services.

The Office of the Dean of Students welcomes referrals if you are concerned about a colleague.


Assignments and ideas on this syllabus build on those from everyone who has taught it before, especially Mark Guzdial, Rosa Arriaga, Beki Grinter, Amy Bruckman, Eric Gilbert, and Colin Potts.