Computing Community Consortium Blog

The goal of the Computing Community Consortium (CCC) is to catalyze the computing research community to debate longer range, more audacious research challenges; to build consensus around research visions; to evolve the most promising visions toward clearly defined initiatives; and to work with the funding organizations to move challenges and visions toward funding initiatives. The purpose of this blog is to provide a more immediate, online mechanism for dissemination of visioning concepts and community discussion/debate about them.

The future of social networking

November 19th, 2010 / in research horizons / by Erwin Gianchandani

To Facebook message or to e-mail? Facebook message.

At least that was the conclusion of a report from Nielsen Online published earlier this year, which found that, through 2008, people spent more time on social networking websites than they did in their e-mail accounts.  While the revelation wasn’t too surprising, it was an important milestone in the history of the Internet.  Add to that a Sheraton Hotels survey this week, which reported that 60% of us use social media — not cell phones or e-mail — to communicate with loved ones when we’re traveling, and it’s clear that the Facebooks and Twitters of the world are here to stay.

IEEE Computer November 2010 special issue:  Technology Mediated Social Participation [Courtesy IEEE]In light of this increasing prevalence of social media, this month’s IEEE Computer is very timely.  In a special issue titled Technology-Mediated Social Participation (or TMSP for short), guest editors Peter Pirolli (Palo Alto Research Center), Jenny Preece (University of Maryland), and Ben Shneiderman (University of Maryland) — working with teams of prominent colleagues — lay out a roadmap for long-term R&D, education, and policy, describing the key questions and challenges for building upon existing tools to foster even wider, more in-depth social participation, address national priorities, and, perhaps most importantly, mitigate the potential dangers associated with these technologies.

Calling for a “National Initiative in Social Participation,” Peter, Jenny, and Ben describe the “deep science questions with profound theoretical impacts on human use of technologies.  Computer science challenges include scalable network analysis algorithms, effective visualizations that guide moderator decisions and community organizer activities, and universal usability to support diverse users and platforms. … Data-driven visual analytics would enable tracking and ranking evolving networks, agent-based simulations, and searching for distinctive and common features in large networks.”  They go on to highlight the “strong research opportunities” in areas like collective intelligence, collective action, social creativity, social dilemmas, as well as around basic principles such as privacy, freedom, and identity — all of which influence design decisions and social participation.

Among the areas of national significance for TMSP:  open government; health 2.0; education; traditional media (i.e., TV newscasts and newspapers) literacy; and person-to-person diplomacy.

The IEEE Computer special issue is the result of a pair of workshops in December 2009 and April 2010 funded by the National Science Foundation — an activity, the trio point out, that itself emerged from the grassroots efforts of academic, industrial, and government participants.

I encourage you to check out the entire issue.

Update 11/7/2010: Ben Shneiderman and Jenny Preece will be speakers at a December 1 New America Foundation event in Washington, DC:  Technology, Social Innovation, and Civic Participation:  What’s the Next Step? The session — Wednesday, Dec. 1, 3:30-4:45pm, at the New America Foundation at 19th & L Streets, NW — is open to the public; register here today!

(Contributed by Erwin Gianchandani, CCC Director)

The future of social networking

Comments are closed.