What if there were a place where you could combine a deep understanding of social change with sophisticated approaches to big data analysis?
Technologies of Community meeting at Lux

Over the last several years the Data & Society Program faculty recognized a gap. While there were a number of programs, both at universities and elsewhere, that were teaching the tools of data science, few of these provided the framework required to make sense of these new sources of data, to choose analytical approaches appropriate to the organizational context, and to effectively communicate these analyses to a range of audiences. Fewer still were helping professionals come to terms with the ways in which data collection and dissemination can lead to poor or dangerous outcomes. We realized there was a need for a graduate program that could prepare professionals and scholars who are well grounded in digital research methods and are equally able to draw on social theory to make sense of and plan for social change. Thus the new curriculum for the master’s degree in Social Technologies was born.

Our graduates are able to translate the work of data science to make it applicable to organizational and social ends, as part of a larger data science team, but also have a broad set of skills and knowledge that can be applied to online communities and platforms in a range of managerial roles.

The Curriculum

Master’s students complete 11 courses over five semesters, including the summer semester. The program can be taken in person, with courses mainly held on the Downtown ASU campus and the West campus, or 100% online through ASU Online. Students complete courses in theory, research methods, and applied courses (though most courses include components of all three). At the end of the program students produce a Capstone Portfolio.

Theories of Data & Society

A number of courses in the program introduce the core social theory that help to provide a framework for understanding how data can be used effectively, as well as ways in which it has led to poor social outcomes. This ability to critically analyze the social contexts of data use is extraordinarily valuable, and unfortunately rare. These are traditional graduate seminars, and hone participants’ abilities to engage critically with theory, collectively analyze it, and synthesize their own critical framework.

Courses:

  • Theories of Data & Society
  • Networked Publics
  • Ethics & Policies of Social Data

Research Methods

Students in the program receive a strong grounding in digital methods. This training is “dual use.” For those who will be moving into data science or analytics as a profession will find that their grounding in core digital social methods will provide professionals with a set of skills that will produce insights valuable to enterprises, government agencies, and non-profits. Those who may be interested in engaging in a doctoral program or work in research outside of academia will likewise find the tools and approaches learned here will provide a platform for their research agenda.

Courses:

  • Data Wrangling
  • Computational Social Methods I & II
  • Social Search & Filtering

Practical Application

Finally, several courses are intended to help students engage in the kinds of professional work in demand by a range of organizations. This includes collecting data from ubiquitous and wearable sources, developing and managing online communities,

Courses:

  • Data, Places, People, & Things
  • Technologies of Community
  • Communicating Data Science
  • Social Data Projects

Capstone Portfolio

In every course in the program, students engage in authentic work that demonstrate their abilities. Students earn badges throughout for work that represents extraordinarily high quality. In the final semester, each graduate assembles these badges and the evidence that back them as part of a public portfolio of your work.

Some students who intend to continue on to doctoral work may have the opportunity to complete a research thesis. Note that this is offered only to those who are exceptionally prepared to complete a large-scale research project, and this is likely to require more time to complete than the Capstone Portfolio, extending the length of the program.

The Community

In some ways, more important than the courses you take in graduate school are the connections you make. We have gathered together a group of faculty who are not only engaged in ground-breaking research, but also care about you as partners in a learning community. Your successes are the success of our program, and so we are eager to help you find your strengths and develop them. You will also draw from the diverse experiences of your peers in the program, many of whom come with substantial experience in a range of fields and deep disciplinary knowledge. They, like you, have chosen to take this next, bold step, and you will grow together. Community is an essential part of what makes learning possible, and we are dedicated to fostering a learning community that is supportive and that also demands the very best out of everyone who contributes to it.

Learn More & Apply

A master’s program is not for everyone. It is an investment of time and money, and the work represents a significant challenge. Few steps, however, can open up opportunities in the same way. And the master’s program offered here is a particularly rare one, crossing disciplines and demonstrating a kind of bridge between the technical and social that is desperately needed in organizations at the highest levels.

If you think it might be something you are interested in, feel free to reach out to the program director, Alex Halavais, at theprof@asu.edu to arrange a chat, or speak with admissions advisors and apply for the partial or fully online versions of the program.