Workshop: Research Directions for Social Computing

The term social computing is used regularly to describe research projects, technology systems, conference sessions, and even research groups, but what are the research questions and strategies that will help move forward a deep understand of social computing? The commonalities – the causes, effects, and motivations- in the human and technological factors underlying social computing systems are the big issues we are searching for with this workshop. Social psychological processes of online groups, crowd behavior in large online forums, social organization structures in online games, identity and deception in online dating sites, and creating and enforcing norms in media-poor environments are examples of work in this purview. How can we pull together a research effort effective and large scale enough to really address these and similar phenomena?

Attempting to identify and define research directions in social computing implies a somewhat larger goal, which is to take a step toward solidifying social computing as a distinct research area, with common methods, theories, and publication outlets. Many researchers are addressing questions in this area, yet often under the rubric of other disciplines. In order to take a step to bring this field into its own, we hope this workshop will begin to address the difficulty in unifying the diversity of people working in the area. Thus, an additional goal for the workshop is to bring together researchers that might not normally interact and may bring very different perspectives, but that nonetheless are studying similar phenomena. Finally, we hope to use this workshop to contribute to a roadmap for more organized research, funding, and publication activities going forward.

Proposals to participate in the workshop should focus on one of the three topic areas below (or combinations thereof). Given the nature of the workshop goals, note that we anticipate a focus on theory and method over system demonstration.

1. A research issue central to the idea of social computing that illustrates how social science theory is embedded in technical systems
2. An area of study critical to ongoing research in social computing
3. A method for studying social computing . Proposals should not focus on an implementation of a system.

Attendees will be accepted to the workshop based on 2 page position statements on the meaning of social computing and the research issues they see most cogent to the area, as couched in one or more of the above topic areas. A focus on how the ideas expressed can help establish social computing and carry it forward is encouraged. These position papers will be assembled and distributed to attendees before the conference, with the expectation that readers will read and comment on them before arrival. Position statements and attendee bios will be made available through a groupware application. Each attendee will be expected to comment on at least one other position paper. In addition, we will recruit and present position papers from researchers representative of these fields who were unable to attend the workshop. Using phone and email interviews, we’ll query leading researchers in a variety of disciplines on their perspectives on social computing, and make these available through the groupware before the conference begins.

Deadline for submissions will be September 12. We will screen submissions for quality and relevance to the workshop. Announcements of acceptance will be sent on October 1. The ACM GROUP conference starts on November 4, 2007.

Scott Counts
Microsoft Research
Cliff Lampe
Michigan State University