Carnegie Mellon University


Carnegie Mellon's Societal Computing program began in 2003, as founders Kathleen M. Carley, Norman Sadeh, and Latanya Sweeney recognized that developing technologies presented novel challenges that computer science by itself could not address. Issues such as data privacy, self-governing complex socio-technical systems, and sustainable systems required a deeply interdisciplinary approach. The PhD program in Computation, Organizations, and Society (COS) was crafted to provide our graduates the intellectual tools, skills, and knowledge they would need to design societal-scale technologies and develop effective policy responses.


Building on the great success of the COS program, spanning more than a decade, the faculty and students began to realize what they were really doing was inventing a new discipline, one defined by the fundamental question it seeks to answer:

How can we design computing technologies to address societal needs and concerns, and how can we assess and guide the design, implementation, and deployment of new computing technologies as they appear?

We changed the name of the program to Societal Computing in 2015, to better describe this emerging discipline. Societal Computing is the branch of computer science that designs computational technology to shape tomorrow's digital world and uses computational methods to understand the societal challenges a digital world poses. It seeks to discover the scientific principles and laws governing the relationship between the design of computing technology and the nature of digital society.

The Future of Societal Computing

We are waking up to the fact that computing technology is changing us. We are creating a computational environment that is shaping our society.

Increasingly we are asking the most pressing technology question of our day: are these the changes we want? Do we just stand back and watch, as commercial interests and governments build technologies around us?

The faculty and students in the Societal Computing PhD program in the School of Computer Science answer decisively that waiting passively is not an option. Building on a decade of world-leading research, we are shaping a new scientific discipline that is changing the world. We are producing the graduates with the knowledge and skills to shape the digital landscape.