What is the Wellesley College Project on Social Computing?

The Wellesley College Project on Social Computing, formerly known as the Mellon Residential Life Project, has worked from September 2000 to December 2008 to examine the multiple and varying impacts of electronic communication on our campus community. Funded by two Academic Communities grants from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to Wellesley College, the project has entailed:

  • multiple research projects, both intra- and inter-institutional
  • regular campus-wide lectures and discussions on electronic discourse, privacy law, and other issues of electronic communication
  • the 2007 E-SCAPE Symposium, a gathering of deans of students, information services professionals, faculty and students from 32 institutions of higher learning
  • a campus-wide educational initiative designed to provide information about effective electronic communication and conflict to all students, faculty and staff at Wellesley
  • a revised approach to campus policy regarding the use of electronic resources
  • a clear action plan for responding to electronic incidents

Recognizing that all constituencies of a college community engage in and are affected by electronic discourse, we have taken it as a given from the beginning that the project must jointly and equally involve the student life office, information technology officers, higher administration, faculty, and students. The project directors have included the dean of students, a dean of the College, and a faculty member; the steering committee includes the director of the office of Institutional Research, members of information services, and faculty from departments such as psychology, linguistics and cognitive sciences, English, sociology, and writing with a research interest in electronic discourse. In addition to regular student membership on the committee, we have relied on a student advisory board and student research assistants to develop specific projects.

The questions that have guided our work are these:

  • What does it mean for this residential college community that we now rely so heavily on a venue for communication that is regular, ongoing, and not face-to face?
  • How is electronic communication affecting the way people think about, engage in, and resolve conflict?
  • What is problematic and what works well in our technological universe?
  • How do technological decisions impact social interaction?
  • How do issues of diversity play into this mix?

The purpose of this website is to provide a framework for administrators in higher education to understand and address issues of social computing on their own campuses.

WCPSC Faculty Director: Wini Wood
Maintained by: Anne Manning
Date Created: 25 August 2008
Last Modified: 25 August 2008
Expires: 31 December 2009