Why an Informatics Degree?
Isn’t computer science enough?
WHAT IS An informat- ics degree, and why? These are questions that have been posed to us on innumerable
occasions for almost a decade by students, parents, employers, and colleagues, and when asked to prepare a
Communications Education column to
answer that question, we jumped at
The term “informatics” has different definitions depending on where
it is used. In Europe, for instance,
computer science is referred to as informatics. In the U.S., however, informatics is linked with applied computing, or computing in the context of
another domain. These are just labels,
of course. In practice, we are educating
for a broad continuum of computing
disciplines, applications, and contexts
encountered in society today.
informatics programs offer diverse applications, as shown in these scenes from
the informatics program at indiana university, Bloomington.
science to informatics
Computing provides the foundation
for science, industry, and ultimately
for the success of society. Computing
education traditionally has focused on
a set of core technological and theoretical concepts, and teaching these
concepts remains critically important.
Meanwhile, advances in computing occur and are driven by the need to solve
increasingly complex problems in domains outside traditional computer
science. Students, teachers, and scholars in other fields are keenly interested
in computational thinking, and computing itself increasingly is informed
by the challenges of other disciplines.
For example, to design good online
auction technology, computer scien-
tists found that they needed to under-
stand how humans would select bid-
ding strategies given the system design,
and indeed how to design the system
to motivate certain types of behavior
(truthful value revelation, for example).
This co-design problem led to fruitful
interdisciplinary collaborations be-
tween computer scientists, economists
and, increasingly, social psychologists.
Likewise, designing successful tech-
nology for trust, privacy, reputation,
and sharing in social computing envi-
ronments requires both computer sci-
ence and behavioral science.