Digital technology has not only revolutionized society but also the way we study it. For one, an increasing part of human interaction leaves a massive digital footprint. Studying it allows us to gain unprecedented insights into what society is and how it works, including aspects that had long been evasive, such as intricate social networks and behavioral dynamics through time. Additionally, today’s computational power allows us to both detect hidden patterns through artificial intelligence and to simulate social dynamics. The latter enables us to explore hypothetical situations that may not even exist in reality, but are useful to understand generative mechanisms and causality.
Computational social science provides scholars with the tools to deepen the understanding of long–standing questions in the social sciences, as well as explore new ones. As suggested by the term itself, the approach is per definition interdisciplinary and the DE in Computational Social Science is both interdisciplinary in terms of requiring foundations in computational methods, data analysis, and social science theory, and it is multidisciplinary in terms of blurring the traditional boundaries between disciplines in the social sciences.
Across its diverse departments, UC Davis offers many of the required courses to become a leader in the exploitation of the current opportunities. This DE aims at creating synergies among the existing courses and research initiatives by bringing them together in a coherent way. It allows students with computational and mathematical skills to deepen their understanding of social science theory and to study unanswered social science research questions; and it allows students from the social sciences to improve their analytical skills in areas like big data analysis, computer simulations, network analysis and machine learning. We live in an economy where nine out of the ten most valuable companies in the world are built on business models that are driven by computational social science approaches, most of them headquartered not far from UC Davis. This DE provides new and complementary dimensions to existing graduate programs, creates synergies and increases UC Davis’ visibility in a field of inquiry that has much more demand than supply of human resources. This increases the competitiveness of our students for employment and of our faculty projects for external funding.