New book about Social Machines: Call for Chapters

The call for papers has been issued for a new book on social machines, whose co-editors include SOCIAM PI David De Roure of the University of Oxford, and SOCIAM researcher Kieron O’Hara of the University of Southampton.

The book’s full title is Digital Enlightenment Forum Yearbook 2014: Social Machines and Social Networks, Surveillance and Empowerment. It is the third in a series of yearbooks produced by the Digital
Enlightenment Forum
. The Forum, established in Belgium, aims to shed light on today’s rapid technological changes and their impact on society and its governance. It stimulates debate and provides guidance on these issues, taking inspiration from enlightenment thought as well as from transformations and evolutions that have taken place since. It examines digital technologies and their application openly with essential societal values in mind. Such values might assume novel forms taking advantage of both today’s knowledge and unprecedented access to information. Last year’s annual publication, subtitled The Value of Personal Data, was also co-edited by Kieron and contained a chapter about the midata initiative by SOCIAM director Nigel Shadbolt.

The growth of online social networking is a key part of the recent history of the Web, from the launch of invitation-only SixDegrees.com in 1997, to the position of Facebook on its 10th anniversary, with over a billion active users and a market capitalisation of $134bn. On these mediated interaction platforms, users enjoy the benefits of community networking supported by an information infrastructure, and often willingly accept these benefits without being fully aware of the risks of surveillance, invasions of privacy, unconstrained data mining, data and identity breaches, and being haunted by the permanence of the various records maintained and increasingly shared by data intermediaries.

However, as these debates unfold, with stronger claims being made about the monetary and non-monetary benefits and costs of data volunteering and sharing, users’ calculations of utility are becoming less tractable, and the struggle to maintain democratic protections and other stakeholder expectations more complex and pressing. Sensitivity is increasing with awareness. Recent events such as the delayed
roll-out
of the care.data healthcare data-sharing initiative in the United Kingdom (where ideas about privacy have traditionally been relatively relaxed) indicate
how attitudes appear to be changing.

At the same time, emergent and collective problem-solving at scale on the Web, driven by increasing availability of data and powerful data-handling tools (exemplified by Wikipedia, Ushahidi and Galaxy Zoo) is empowering many individuals and communities to identify and solve their own problems, harnessing collective commitment, local knowledge and embedded skills. They are able to leverage their social networks (often with the help of social networking tools) without having to rely on remote experts or governments. This promises to bring about the vision of social machines as empowering, which the SOCIAM project champions.

The scenarios of individual/community empowerment and effective surveillance are not mutually exclusive. Yet it remains a research question as to how far it is possible to have the empowerment benefit without the surveillance cost, and how this dynamic balance is affected by context. The Digital Enlightenment Yearbook of 2014 will gather together the science, social science, law and politics of this new environment in order to enable us to reformulate and address this and related pressing questions.

The Yearbook 2014 will consist of peer-reviewed chapters, of 4000-8000 words each. Articles should relate to the yearbook’s theme and may cover topics that reflect the ethical, creative, legal, economic or monetary issues of people’s use of social networks. A list of possible topics is given in the call.

Key deadlines are 15th May for an extended abstract, and 7th July for a first draft of the paper. The final version would be required by August 28th.