The University of Pittsburgh’s Community Informatics Research Group (CIRG) is a cross-disciplinary, highly collaborative teaching and research initiative concerned with information challenges in the nonprofit and civil society sectors. Our faculty and student researchers use qualitative and quantitative methods to understand how community organizations and agencies use information systems and services to carry out their work. We also co-create new digital tools, systems, and processes for helping community organizations and agencies with their mission-related activities. The bulk of our current research concentrates on bringing faculty and students from the School of Information Sciences into closer conversation with local nonprofit cultures, and with underserved and under-resourced populations in Pittsburgh. Donor databases, volunteer tracking systems, telephone hotlines, crisis management procedures, nonprofit gaming, digital tool creation, capacity and infrastructure issues, staff training, technical troubleshooting…these are just some of the topics and issues that CIRG researchers tackle through individual and team-based inquiry that advances the social and information sciences, as well as contributes directly to society.

News and Updates:

December 2014: Students in Rosta Farzan’s “Social Computing” course will be holding a poster session on December 11th (6pm, 3rd Floor of the IS Building). Featured projects include a new social platform for local artists and a new digital bulletin board system for the School of Information Sciences. The poster session is open to everyone!

December 2014: Course enrollment for the Spring 2015 term has begun. For those students interested in careers in the nonprofit sector, Brian Beaton will be re-offering his “Community Knowledge Practices” course on Tuesdays afternoons (3pm). Click here for more details and information about other new courses at the iSchool.

November 2014: The next “I Made It!” market will be held on Nov. 28-29 at 623 Smithfield Street. The market will feature 80+ local artists.

November 2014: Yu-Ru Lin received an Honorable Mention for her co-authored paper at IEEE VIST 2014, “#FluxFlow: Visual Analysis of Anomalous Information Spreading on Social Media.” Congratulations, Yu-Ru!

November 2014: Amelia Acker won the ProQuest Doctoral Dissertation Award at ASIS&T 2014 in Seattle. Congratulations, Amelia!

November 2014: The iSchool has announced new certificates in Big Data Analytics and Security Assured Information Systems. Read more here.

November 2014: Brian Beaton is participating in the TechnoScience Salon on “Citizen Science” (Nov. 14, Toronto). His talk is entitled: “When a Scientist Turns to ‘Citizens’ to Help Activate Her Evidence What Are Some of the Effects on the Scientist and Her Work?” Click here for more details: Technoscience Salon.

November 2014: The Sara Fine Institute for Interpersonal Behavior and Technology is bringing Lucy Suchman (Lancaster University) to campus in November. Suchman will be delivering the 2014 Annual SFI Lecture on Nov. 6th. Click here for more details:

October 2014: The Gender, Sexuality, & Women’s Studies Program is bringing Anne Fausto-Sterling (Brown University) to Pitt for several events in October! Click here for scheduling details and information about ways to be involved:

October 2014: Brian Beaton will be moderating “Culture Change in Academia: Making Sharing the New Norm,” a panel discussion to be held as part of Open Access Week (Oct. 22, 2014).

October 2014: Anthropologist Mizuko Ito to speak on “Connected Learning.” William Pitt Union Lower Lounge, October 15th, 10:30am. Co-sponsored by the Dept. of English, the iSchool, and the School of Education.

October 2014: Brian Beaton is presenting a paper at the 2014 meeting of the Society for U.S. Intellectual History on how cultural critics responded to mass data releases in the Cold War era (Indianapolis, Indiana, October 9-12, 2014).

October 2014: The Department of Communication is hosting a talk by James Wynn (Carnegie Mellon University) on “Can Winning be Losing? Citizen Science and the Politics of Redevelopment.” Friday, October 10, 2014, 3pm. 206 Cathedral of Learning.

October 2014: iFest Competition Proposals Due October 10th. TechShop memberships available to winning teams! Winners will be announced on October 20th. Current iSchool students should contact student services for more details.

October 2014: CIRG PhD Affiliates Jocelyn Monahan and Ryan Champagne are co-organizing the “Debating Visual Knowledge” Graduate Student Symposium, Oct. 3-5, 2014, University of Pittsburgh. More details here:

September 2014: Rosta Farzan is serving as the faculty advisor this year for the Women in Information Science (WIS) student group. Contact her for details about how to get involved!

September 2014: Brian Beaton is serving on a panel about community engagement practices and citizen science at IEEE/ACM JCDL 2014 (London, UK, Sept. 8-12).

September 2014: Brian Beaton published a new paper through UNLV’s Center for Gaming Research on information management challenges in the nonprofit sector(s) and the potential for adapting the types of platforms and solutions coming out of game-based citizen science. The paper can be found here:

September 2014: Pitt is holding a “Sustainable Solutions Competition” for students as part of Pitt’s “Year of Sustainability” activities. Further details here:

August 2014: Welcome Amelia Acker! The community of researchers working at the intersections of STS, community informatics, digital culture, ICT’s, and infrastructure studies continues to grow rapidly at SIS. Dr. Amelia Acker (PhD, UCLA) has just joined our faculty (Aug. 2014). A story about her arrival be found here:

August 2014: Rosta Farzan is offering a new PhD seminar this term on ICT for development. Limited spaces are still available.

August 2014: Upcoming Event at Revision Space Gallery (5262 Butler Street): “Great Waves” Artists’ Talk and Guest Speaker: Jessica Beck, Assistant Curator of The Andy Warhol Museum and Co-curator of the Pittsburgh Biennial. August 22, 7pm.

August 2014: CREATE Lab (at CMU) is hiring an “Outreach Project Assistant” for the Hear Me project. Click here for more details:

August 2014: The iSchool hosted Drupal Camp PA on August 2nd and 3rd. More details can be found here:

August 2014: Welcome Tonia Sutherland! Recent iSchool PhD Tonia Sutherland has joined The Collaborative for Historical Information and Analysis at Pitt’s World History Center as a Postdoctoral Fellow. Sutherland’s expertise includes information policy, cultures of collaboration, big data, and global information challenges that require new forms of transnational, multi-sited intervention. CIRG researchers look forward to reading, thinking, and making with Tonia!

August 2014: Welcome Lauren KilgourRecent University of Toronto iSchool graduate Lauren Kilgour has joined the Pitt iSchool as a PhD student, effective Fall 2014. Kilgour’s earlier graduate work was funded by a prestigious award from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). Kilgour will be based in Brian Beaton’s research group, working with fellow PhD students Jocelyn Monahan and Ryan Champagne, who hold earlier degrees from UT Austin and UW-Madison respectively. The research group spent the summer of 2014 reading landmark works in STS, thinking, making, critically playing, and quote-bombing the iSchool’s whiteboards with provocations for our iSchool peers.

August 2014: The app that CIRG has been developing in consultation with local nonprofits is now in its prototype stage. The app allows nonprofits to engage with volunteers in new ways and collects new types of data about volunteer activities.

August 2014: Brian Beaton presented some research on citizen science infrastructure gaps at the 2014 joint meeting of 4S and Sociedad Latinoamericana de Estudios Sociales de la Ciencia y la Technologia (ESOCITE) in Buenos Aires, Argentina (Aug. 20-23).

June 2014: Registration has begun for Fall 2014 courses at the iSchool. There are numerous courses with a community informatics bent, or being taught by CIRG researchers. Rosta Farzan will be teaching Social Computing. Claudia Lopez will be teaching Human Information Processing. Yu-Ru Lin will be teaching Information Visualization. Jung Sun Oh will be teaching Introduction to Information Technologies, as well as a course on Social Media and Information Behavior. Brian Beaton will be teaching a new course called Information and Culture: Key Debates and Controversies.

May 2014: CIRG researcher Jocelyn Monahan will be presenting (with Jeff Curran) a digital video and sound project entitled “Topographies of Interference” at the upcoming Cultural Studies Association’s 2014 conference (May 29-31, Salt Lake City, UT). The conference theme is “Ecologies: Relations of Culture, Matter, and Power.” Monahan’s project documents relations between server farms and farmland in the American Midwest. Select stills:

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May 2014: Brian Beaton is representing CIRG at a two-day workshop at the University of Michigan (May 9-10, 2014) on social justice impact measurement. Participants include researchers from the University of Michigan iSchool, the University of Toronto iSchool, the University College London (UCL) Department of Information Studies, and the Technology & Social Change Group at the the University of Washington iSchool.

May 2014: CIRG researcher Lauren Kilgour received a Michael Smith Foreign Study Supplement from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). Congratulations, Lauren!

April 2014: The Pitt Humanities Center is sponsoring a lecture by Lauren Berlant (University of Chicago). April 29, 4:30pm, 501 Cathedral of Learning.

April 2014: Rosta Farzan and Claudia Lopez attended CHI 2014 in Toronto (April 26-May 1). Lopez presented a poster entitled “Designing for Neighborhoods: Lessons Learned from Paper-based Bulletin Boards,” which described ongoing research into offline social systems and issues of system sustainability. CHI 2015 will be held in Seoul, Korea (April 18-24, 2015). Click here for more details.

April 2014: Brian Beaton’s “Community Knowledge Practices” class finished a semester-long research and design project. The end result was an interactive, web-based survey that will allow small nonprofits to diagnose their major information-related challenges and better communicate them to outside partners and collaborators. A small demo and launch party was held today on the 8th Floor of the IS Building (April 15, 2014).

April 2014: Brian Beaton’s “Citizen Science” class finished a semester-long research and design project that explored social, cultural, and technical barriers that make it difficult for citizen science groups to interact with official science archives and research infrastructures.

March 2014: Alyx Cole, Director of Communications at the iSchool, visited Brian Beaton’s “Community Knowledge Practices” class to provide project feedback and to offer strategies for collaborating with local nonprofits.

March 2014: Our Pitt iSchool colleagues, Leanne Bowler and Nora Mattern, won the Lee Dirks Best Paper Award at iConference 2014 for a paper entitled “Developing Design Interventions for Cyberbullying: A Narrative-based Participatory Approach.” The paper was co-authored with Cory Knobel (UC Irvine). Congratulations, Leanne, Nora, and Cory!

March 2014: Yu-Ru Lin, Claudia Lopez, Ryan Champagne, and Brian Beaton are heading to Berlin for iConference 2014 (March 4-7), along with 14 other Pitt iSchool faculty and students.

February 2014: “Assemble” (a community space for arts + technology based at 5125 Penn Ave) is looking for an iSchool student to help with information management work, and to help create information systems and technologies.

February 2014: Rosta Farzan and PhD researcher Claudia Lopez will be participating in the upcoming 17th ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing (CSCW2014), which will be held in Baltimore on Feb. 15-19.

February 2014: Rosta Farzan’s project on “Hyperlocal Online Communities as ‘Third Places'” has received a Google Research Award. 

February 2014: Recent iSchool graduate Sarah Hallett has just completed a literature review for our study of impact measurement and reporting challenges in the nonprofit sector.

February 2014: Alexandra Oliver, a PhD candidate in the History of Art & Architecture, visited Brian Beaton’s “Community Knowledge Practices” class on February 4th to discuss her plans to start an organization that documents Pittsburgh-based contemporary artists and the decision processes involved at the visioning and launch stages.

January 2014: Alyx Cole, Director of Communications at the iSchool, visited Brian Beaton’s “Community Knowledge Practices” class on January 21st to discuss strategies for interacting with nonprofits.

January 2014: Brian Beaton’s “Citizen Science” class visited the Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation at CMU on January 20th to discuss citizen science work in the plant sciences, documentation challenges, and possible collaborations.

January 2014: The School of Information Sciences will be hosting a “Technology, Entrepreneurship, Creativity” conference on February 9, 2014.

January 2014: Rosta Farzan is offering a class on “Web Technologies and Standards” this semester (Spring 2014).

January 2014: Brian Beaton’s “Community Knowledge Practices” class (Spring 2014) is tracking the lifecycle of a “typical” nonprofit to understand organization-level information needs at various key moments, moving from entity registration and fundraising at the beginning of the semester into topics like technology acquisition, recordkeeping, messaging, and reporting.

January 2014: Brian Beaton’s “Citizen Science” class (Spring 2014) is looking at new and emergent modes of expert-lay collaboration in the sciences, and working with the Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation (Carnegie Mellon University) to explore new ways of preserving citizen science research, data, and samples.

December 2013: Students in Rosta Farzan’s “Social Computing” class presented their projects on December 11, 2013 in the Student Collaboration Center on the 3rd floor of the SIS Building.

November 2013The registration period has begun for Spring 2014. Brian Beaton will be offering a new graduate seminar on “Community Knowledge Practices” on Tuesday afternoons.

October 2013: Brian Beaton gave a research talk entitled “On the Idea of Using Crowds and Crowdsourcing to Combat Rape and Sexual Assault” at the University of Illinois iSchool (Oct. 21, 2013).

September 2013Rosta Farzan is offering a class this semester on “Social Computing.” Jung Sun Oh is offering a class on “Social Media and Information Behavior.” Yu-Ru Lin is offering a class on “Data Mining.” Brian Beaton is offering a class on “Histories and Theories of Information.”

June 2013: Brian Beaton and Rosta Farzan have been awarded a 2013 Steven D. Manners Award from the University Center for Social and Urban Research (UCSUR) for their study “Information Needs in the Local Nonprofit Sector: The Challenge of Measuring and Reporting Impact.”

May 2013: The Pitt Humanities Center is sponsoring a lecture by Priscilla Wald (Duke University), May 1, 2013, 4pm.

April 2013: Brian Beaton (SIS) and Gavin Steingo (Dept. of Music) are co-organizing a public symposium entitled “Crowdsourced Music: Social and Aesthetic Implications,” April 25, 6pm. Location: IS Building, 3rd Floor.