HCOMP Workshop on
Mathematical Foundations of Human Computation

General Information

  • Location: Austin, TX, USA (held at HCOMP 2016)
  • Workshop date: November 3, 2016
  • Submission deadline: August 1, 2016
  • Notification of acceptance: on or around August 26, 2016

The call for papers (plain text) is available here.


There is great untapped potential for foundational mathematical research to influence and shape the future of human computation. Indeed there is already a small literature on the use of mathematical models to analyze and design human computation systems including crowdsourcing markets, prediction markets, and user-generated content sites. However, we are far from having a full systematic understanding of the possibilities and limitations of human computation.

This workshop will bring together researchers across disciplines to discuss the future of research on the mathematical foundations of human computation, with particular emphasis on the ways in which theorists can learn from the existing empirical literature on human computation and the ways in which applied and empirical work on human computation can benefit from mathematical foundations.

Topics of Interests

Questions of interest include but are not limited to:
  • Can we rigorously model what a human can compute? Can we quantify the computational power of a crowd? How?
  • What are useful mathematical models and complexity measures for human computation?
  • Is it possible to model user behavior accurately enough to yield formal guarantees about the performance of crowdsourcing systems that are useful in practice? Are there systematic deviations from standard theories in online users' behavior?
  • How can we design humanly-usable algorithms and protocols?
  • Does the computational power of a crowd scale nonlinearly? In other words, is the power of a crowd more than the sum of its constituent humans?
  • What are the core technical challenges faced when designing human computation mechanisms?
  • What is the best way to solve a problem with a crowd? How should tasks be divided up and assigned among individuals? For example, should the crowd be organized as a hierarchy or should every individual have equal influence?

Paper Submission

We solicit contributed papers of two types:

(1) Research papers report the results of new, recent, or ongoing research.

(2) Position papers describe the authors' vision of how the mathematical foundations of human computation should evolve as a field.

Papers may be up to three pages long with an optional fourth page containing references only. Please use any single column format and a font size of at least 11 pt. Accepted papers will be made available on the workshop website. However, the workshop will have no archival proceedings, meaning contributors are free to publish their results subsequently in archival journals or conferences. We also welcome submissions of work that has recently (within the last year) been published in other conferences. Simultaneous submission to HCOMP is not allowed. Papers should be submitted via EasyChair and do not need to be anonymized.

Submission site: EasyChair
Deadline for submissions: Monday, August 1, 2016
Notification of acceptance: on or around Friday, August 26, 2016

Invited Speakers

Emery Berger, University of Massachusetts Amherst
Manuel Blum, Carnegie Mellon University
Adam Tauman Kalai, Microsoft Research
Jaime Teevan, Microsoft Research

Schedule (Tentative)

09:00am - 09:30am: Opening Talk (Jenn Wortman Vaughan)
  • Mathematical Foundations of Human Computation (Slides)
09:30am - 10:15am: Invited Talk (Emery Berger, University of Massachusetts Amherst)
  • Programming with People (Slides)
10:15am - 10:30am: Discussion
10:30am - 11:00am: Coffee Break
11:00am - 11:30pm: Contributed talks
11:30am - 12:15pm: Invited Talk (Manuel Blum, Carnegie Mellon University)
  • An Automata-Theoretic Model for Human Computation with Applications to Password Generation (Slides)
  • Abstract +
12:15pm - 12:30pm: Discussion
12:30pm - 02:00pm: Lunch Break
02:00pm - 02:30pm: Contributed Talks
02:30pm - 03:15pm: Invited Talk (Adam Tauman Kalai, Microsoft Research)
  • Meta-Unsupervised-Learning: A Model of Unsupervised Learning Applicable to Humans and Computers (Slides)
  • Abstract +
03:15pm - 03:30pm: Discussion
03:30pm - 04:00pm: Coffee Break
04:00pm - 04:45pm: Invited Talk (Jaime Teevan, Microsoft Research)
  • Microproductivity: Getting Big Things Done with Little Microtasks (Slides)
  • Abstract +
04:45pm - 05:30pm: Open Problem Session and Discussion

Organizing Committee

Shuchi Chawla, University of Wisconsin - Madison
Chien-Ju Ho, Cornell University
Michael Kearns, University of Pennsylvania
Jenn Wortman Vaughan, Microsoft Research
Santosh Vempala, Georgia Tech

Related Workshop

A related visioning workshop on Theoretical Foundations for Social Computing was held in June 2015. This white paper explores the state of the field.