What is Social Computing?

Social computing has to do with digital systems that support online social interaction. Some online interactions are obviously social – exchanging email with a family member, sharing photos with friends, instant messaging with coworkers. These interactions are prototypically social because they are about communicating with people we know. But other sorts of online activity also count as social – creating a web page, bidding for something on eBay™, following someone on Twitter™, making an edit to Wikipedia1. These actions may not involve people we know, and may not lead to interactions, but nevertheless they are social because we do them with other people in mind: the belief that we have an audience – even if it is composed of strangers we will never meet – shapes what we do, how we do it, and why we do it.

Thus when we speak of social computing we are concerned with how digital systems go about supporting the social interaction that is fundamental to how we live, work and play. They do this by providing communication mechanisms through which we can interact by talking and sharing information with one another, and by capturing, processing and displaying traces of our online actions and interactions that then serve as grist for further interaction.

An academic deep dive into the topic from Thomas Erickson, a researcher in the Social Computing Group at IBM’s Watson Labs in New York. It includes video interview and commentary from other academics. No, I haven’t read/listened to all this content yet, but bookmarking it for later.

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