How can you read collective emotions and opinions from social media data? How can the latest data science and AI technologies be ethically and constructively incorporated into politics, research and business? Can the behaviour of entire societies be simulated to make predictions? And how can analyses of digital traces of human behaviour be used responsibly and profitably? These and similar questions are the subject of the new English-language Master's programme in Computational Social Systems, which the University of Graz and Graz University of Technology (TU Graz) will offer jointly from the winter semester 2021/22.
This course of study, which is unique in Austria, is aimed at students who would like to take an in-depth look at the effects of digitalization and the challenges and opportunities that go hand in hand with it. The prerequisite is a completed undergraduate degree in economics, sociology, psychology, law or computer science, as well as sufficient knowledge of English. In four semesters, students receive academic training in computer science topics such as data structures, algorithms, statistics, machine learning and data science on the one hand. On the other hand, they learn to understand, classify and predict the behaviour of users of digital technologies. Depending on the focus, students deal, for example, with data-based business models, socio-technical issues, artificial life or robotics, or aspects of data law.
Learning to seize the opportunities of digital transformation
In addition to the close cooperation within the framework of the NAWI Graz cooperation, this inter-university study programme is a further interweaving of the competences of the University of Graz and TU Graz. Together, the two Graz universities want to prepare students and, subsequently, the economy to accompany and shape the digital transformation of society from a business, social, IT, legal and human perspective.
Alina Herderich completed her master's degree at the interface of computer science and psychology (within the framework of the existing Route 63 cooperation between the University of Graz and TU Graz, where students can attend individual courses from computer science, sociology, business administration and psychology at the other university). As a doctoral student at the Institute of Interactive Systems and Data Science at TU Graz, she says about the interdisciplinary subject area of the new master's programme: “Digitalization is both a challenge and an opportunity – for society as well as for business and research. What seemed unthinkable a few years ago is becoming possible. Among other things, phenomena that affect society as a whole, such as the spread of fake news, can be researched with the help of huge data sets. The possibilities of new research approaches and ideas require additional exchange and knowledge from a wide range of disciplines. Personally, I find it challenging and motivating to learn at the cutting edge and I'm sure others will enjoy it in the future."
Roderick Bloem, Dean of the Faculty of Informatics and Biomedical Engineering at TU Graz, affirms: "The Master's programme in Computational Social Systems trains experts from various disciplines who can derive valuable knowledge from these data sets using methods from computer science and guarantee responsible use of these data."
Heinz Königsmaier, Dean of Studies at the Faculty of Business, Economics and Social Sciences at the University of Graz adds: "Students of this interdisciplinary master's programme will gain the skills they need to understand digital society and seize the opportunities presented by digital transformation. We want to use it to equip more bachelor's degree graduates in social sciences and economics with in-depth computer science skills and, conversely, train computer scientists in law, sociology, psychology and economics."
Graduates of the Master's programme, for example, conduct research into social issues and human behaviour using digital data as social data scientists, support business performance through data analysis as business analytics experts, develop technologies for human-computer interaction as interface designers, or advise on legal issues arising from new technologies, such as data protection and copyright law, as experts in digital law. The degree also contributes valuable interdisciplinary knowledge to the founding of start-ups. For example, when founding a software company, where combined knowledge of computer science and business administration is particularly advantageous.
One basic module, four specializations
In the basic module, students become familiar with the subject areas of computational social systems and obtain the necessary preliminary knowledge for the subsequent specializations. You will engage in various research methods for analysing social systems and learn how to use technology and statistical methods to process, evaluate, and interpret data. They then specialize in one of four tracks: business analytics, societies, technologies and social research, and human factors or law and computer science, depending on their prior education.