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David Williamson in front of Gates Hall
David Williamson
One of the questions I get asked most frequently as an Information Science faculty member is this: What is Information Science?  My short answer is that Information Science is where computing touches the human.  A longer answer is that Information Science is fundamentally concerned with the human-centered aspects of computing and information; ranging from how individuals interact with computing devices, to studying the large groups of people through the digital traces they leave in social and information networks, to understanding the way that these computing systems affect our society and culture.  This kind of study is necessarily interdisciplinary; in studying it one needs to look at both social and technical aspects, at design and behavior, at computing and interaction; to study this area requires both technical and qualitative skills.  Thus we have a world-class faculty that spans a range of disciplines, including human-computer interaction, robotics, ethics, law and policy, mobile health, natural language processing, science and technology studies, and more. They think about a wide variety of issues, from how to design robots that interact well with people, to how to predict when an online discussion is about become heated, to understanding the history of particular information technologies, to how to structure online courses to maximize student learning, to how one can understand cultures by processing large numbers of novels. 

The Department of Information Science is a very young department at Cornell.  It was founded out of a vision of how computing would go far beyond its roots in the field of computer science.  The department graduated its first five undergraduates in 2005.  Since then, we've grown to nearly 600 undergraduate majors, over 70 master's students, and over 90 PhD students.  Our department also spans both of Cornell's Ithaca and New York City campuses.  The growth in the department over the last two decades has been remarkable, and Cornell's founding of the department saw clearly how wide the impact of computing would become. 

We are fortunate to have outstanding students.  They graduate with a breadth of skills and knowledge, and go on to pursue meaningful and successful careers that address today’s biggest problems, from equity and public health to privacy and climate change.

The department is a special place, with a strong sense of community, and a supportive environment for learning, collaboration, and innovation.  It's been a privilege to have been part of it since close to its inception, and I look forward to seeing what it becomes in the years ahead.


David Williamson