Aaron Shaw: teaching


Through teaching, I seek to facilitate students' mastery of skills that enable their intellectual, civic, personal, and professional development. I do this by extending and applying insights from my research expertise in digitally networked collaboration, collective action, public goods production, and innovative, participatory organizations. Specifically, I work to create open, interactive, and experimental classroom environments; I direct students to pursue group and project-based learning that involves multiple forms of assessment; and I cultivate deeply collaborative mentoring relationships in which I work side-by-side with students on innovative, original projects. My teaching both draws on and contributes to my research, and my pedagogical approach has also benefited from my experience as a Northwestern Searle Center for Advancing Learning & Teaching Junior Faculty Fellow during the 2013-2014 Academic Year. I pursue teaching and mentoring beyond classrooms through the work of the Community Data Science Collective, and faculty member in the Northwestern Communication Studies Department, MTS Program, and Technology and Social Behavior Ph.D. Program.

Course descriptions with links to the corresponding website follow below. For more information about a specific course or questions about future course offerings, working with me, or becoming part of the Community Data Science Collective, please send me an email.

Courses taught

Hisory and Theory of Information (Northwestern University, Communication Studies 395, History 300) We live in an information age, with computers of unprecedented power in our pockets. This course seeks to understand how information shapes our lives today, and how it has in the past. It does so via an interdisciplinary inquiry into four technological infrastructures of information and communication: print, wires, airwaves, and bits. The course, jointly taught by faculty in Communication Studies and History, will incorporate two weekly lectures and weekly discussion sections. The lectures will synthesize a range of historical and theoretical perspectives, the discussion sections will focus on a single reading or pair of readings.

Online Communities and Crowds (Northwestern University, Communication Studies 378) Online communities and crowds represent the most innovative and ground-breaking organizations today. Distributed groups collaborate over the Internet to write free encyclopedias (Wikipedia), launch social movements (Avaaz, MoveOn), create software (GNU/Linux), share music and films (the Pirate Bay), develop innovative products (CHDK), and conduct advanced scientific research (Zooniverse). When and why do these efforts succeed? What motivates participants to join, contribute, and sustain these communities? How can online communities' and crowds' successes be harnessed and reproduced? What can be learned from their shortcomings? This course presents an intensive and interdisciplinary introduction to the study of online communities and crowds through a combination of readings, discussion, and group-based projects. We will analyze how and why some of these systems are so wildly effective at mobilizing and organizing people in ways that seem to have been impossible a few decades ago.

Introduction to Graduate Research in TSB and MTS (Northwestern University, Media, Technology & Society 501) The goal of this seminar is to introduce first-year students in the MTS and TSB Ph.D. programs to (1) current research in these fields, and (2) key challenges involved in pursuing an impactful, responsible, and fulfilling research career. Throughout the quarter, participants in the seminar will: Engage with program faculty and their research; discuss and assess various aspects of research career practices and strategies; develop and apply your own effective research career development strategies. We will do this through a combination of readings, writings, activities, in-class discussions, and guest visits from TSB and MTS program faculty.

The Practice of Scholarship (Northwestern University, Media, Technology & Society 503) The goal for this course is simple: submit a piece of academic research for publication by the end of the quarter. The piece should (obviously) be original. You should be the primary person responsible for the research and should be the lead author of the submission. The course and assignments are structured to help you cultivate (more of) the skills, wisdom, and experience necessary to publish independent, original, and high-quality scholarship in relevant venues for your work. There are several milestones to help you measure your progress towards manuscript submission at the end of the quarter. The seminar will run as a workshop in which you will produce written work and provide feedback on each other's work every week. Most weeks, we will also read and discuss materials related to the crafts of designing, conducting, writing, submitting, reviewing, revising, and publishing scholarly research. The experience will probably feel like a combination of a writing boot-camp and an extended group therapy session.

Statistics and Statistical Programming (Northwestern University, Media, Technology & Society 525) This course provides a get-your-hands-dirty introduction to statistics and statistical programming for applications in the social sciences and social computing. My main objectives are for all participants to acquire the conceptual, technical, and practical skills to conduct independent statistical analyses and become more sophisticated consumers of quantitative research in communication, HCI, and adjacent disciplines. The course will probably cover the following techniques: t-tests; chi-squared tests; ANOVA, MANOVA, and related methods; linear regression; and logistic regression. We will also consider salient issues in quantitative research such as reproducibility and the statistical crisis in science. The course materials will consist of readings, problem sets, and recorded lectures and screencasts (some created by me, some created by other people). The course requirements will emphasize active participation, self-evaluation, and will include a final project focused on the design and execution of an original piece of quantitative research. We will use the R programming language for all examples and assignments.

Collective Action Online (Northwestern University, Media, Technology & Society 525) Large scale online collective action such as peer production encompasses the most significant organizational innovations that have emerged from Internet-mediated social practice. The best known examples of peer production include free/libre and open source software (FLOSS) such as the GNU/Linux operating system, and free culture projects such as Wikipedia. This seminar introduces key issues in the study of peer production and prepares students to contribute to this interdisciplinary field of research. The first part of this seminar surveys some of the most influential threads of empirical and theoretical research on collective action, online collaboration, and peer production. The second part focuses on readings and discussions driven by student interests and projects.

Research Design for Causal Inference (Northwestern University, Media, Technology & Society 525) Inquiries into cause and effect lie at the heart of almost all social and behavioral research. For example: What are the effects of media exposure on children's educational attainment? Which kinds of outreach and incentives promote participation in voluntary organizations? Can social pressure increase political engagement? This course is a Ph.D. seminar focused on analyzing, designing, and conducting empirical causal inference using quantitative methods. Through readings, problem sets, independent empirical projects, and research design exercises, students in the class will develop the skills needed to understand, design, implement, analyze, and disseminate research that addresses causal questions.