x New: The submission deadline was extended to the 1st of February 2015.
x The second Call for Papers is out. Please read the Participation section to find out more about submission guidelines.

The 3rd International Workshop on the Theory and Practice of Social Machines

Observing social machines on the Web

A workshop at WWW2015, Florence, Italy - 18 May 2015

Continuing from last years' "Theory and Practice of Social Machines" workshops at WWW2013 and 2014, the 2015 edition of the SOCM workshop will look deeply at social machines that have, or may yet soon have, a profound impact on the lives of individuals, businesses, governments, and the society as a whole. Our goal is to discuss issues pertinent to the observation of both extant and yet unrealized social machines building on work of the Web Observatory Workshops of the last two years (WOW2013 and WOW2014). SOCM2015 aims to identify factors that govern the growth or impede these systems to develop, and to identify unmet observation needs or the kinds of loosely-coordinated distributed social systems the Web enables. We also intend to discuss methods to analyze and explore social machines, as essential mechanisms for deriving the guidelines and best practices that will inform the design of social machine observatories.


The workshop will discuss the latest theoretical frameworks and empirical insights around the observation of social machines. As introduced in last year's edition, we use the term "social machines" to refer to socio-technical systems which leverage the Web as a medium for communication, socialization, decentralized coordination, and peer production. This theme derives from concepts introduced by Tim Berners-Lee in his influential book Weaving the Web, in which he describes the Web as an engine to "create abstract social machines - new forms of social processes that would be given to the world at large".

Unlike conventional Turing machines, their social counterparts are comprised of loose collectives of people connected by computational communication substrates at their core. By being accessible to any individual with access to the Web, such social machines have demonstrated the ability to allow groups of individuals to accomplish major goals using methods of distributed coordination and crowdsourcing at unprecedented scales. However, the study of such systems also requires a new and fundamentally different set of instruments, which, though inspired by the mind set of Computer Science and Engineering, naturally embraces theories, findings, and scientific methodology from a variety of other disciplines in order to understand how human and machine intelligence could be best brought together to help individuals, businesses, governments and the society. This includes languages and models to describe their function and operation; visualisation of social machine operation and evolution, and methods that can be applied to study and predict their behavior.

The objective of the workshop is to bring together experts of various kinds of social machines, including crowd-powered systems, social networks, and online communities, to discuss the challenges of meaningful observation of social machines and to present specific tools that they have designed to visualise social machines and their impact on the various sectors of human activity. These applications are increasingly employing Web observatory infrastructures for sharing of data, results and methods.


The workshop proposes a multidisciplinary discussion focused on the following three themes:

Analyzing social machines: analytics and visualisations that provide insights about social machines and their impact, including:

  • Quantitative and qualitative aspects of online peer production and information exchange systems (multimedia sharing sites, auction sites, discussion forums, crowdsourced science, gamified customer relationship management, Wikipedia etc).
  • Visualisation of social machine ecosystems and of social machine operation and evolution.
  • Studies on the effect of social machines in business, government and society and of mechanisms that they employ to engage the people (incentivisation, motivation).

Designing social machine observatories: analyses of the design of effective (extant and future) social machines, including:

  • Deployment of Web Observatories to study social machines and their ecosystem.
  • Infrastructural challenges to the observation of complex ecosystems of systems and platforms bringing together social and algorithmic components.
  • Evaluation and quality assessment techniques of social machine observatories.

Methodology and methods: papers describing approaches and methods for observing social machines, including:

  • Languages and models capturing the above.
  • Taxonomies that define the constructs (dimensions/characteristics) that describe and differentiate current social machines when viewed as a collective.
  • Techniques for instrumentation of social machines to facilitate observation and study.

Workshop format

The workshop will span a full day, commencing with a keynote introduction and closing with a focused discussion session. During the workshop, we will have brief presentations of short papers submitted to the workshop, and an invited panel comprising speakers who selected by conference organizers who have done relevant studies and work on social machines. Paper presentations will be given a 15-minute slot of which no more than 10 minutes will be used for presentation; the rest of the time will be available for questions and discussion.


We welcome paper submissions (regular research papers or position papers) pertaining to the three themes listed above. To encourage papers to be kept short, the page limit is 6 pages in ACM SIG template (as per the WWW2015 research track). At least one author of each paper is expected to register for the workshop and attend to present the paper.

Papers will be evaluated for original ideas and thoughts and techniques for characterizing or examining social machines, including methods and processes for interrogating and modeling online social systems. For study papers, we will welcome any original studies on online communities or summaries of previously conducted studies by participants if contextualized in the framework of social machines. We explicitly welcome papers with a less Computer Science-oriented focus, both in terms of topic and methods applied, reflecting the true interdisciplinary nature of the social machine research field.

Please submit your paper to SOCM2015 on EasyChair.

The accepted submissions will be published as a companion volume for the WWW conference proceedings. We also support the publication of the papers in an open access, web-friendly format on the workshop page (as RDFa annotated HTML), if the authors wish to opt out of the ACM proceedings.

Important dates

1 February 2015Paper submission deadline (Extended)
22 February 2015Acceptance notifications
8 March 2015Camera ready version deadline
18 May 2015Workshop day


The tentative schedule looks as follows:

09:00 - 09:30Welcome and opening (Organizers)
09:30 - 10:30Keynote
10:30 - 11:00Coffee break
11:00 - 12:30Research papers (1)

11:00 - 11:20Buregio et al. Towards government as a social machine.
11:20 - 11:40Murray-Rust et al. On wayfaring in social machines.
11:40 - 12:00Vass and Munson Revisiting the three Rs of social machines: reflexivity, recognition, and responsivity.
12:00 - 12:30Open discussion
12:30 - 14:00Lunch break
14:00 - 15:45Research papers (2)

14:00 - 14:20Roesch et al. When resources collide: Towards a theory of coincidence in information spaces.
14:20 - 14:40Brambilla et al. An explorative approach for crowdsourcing task design.
14:40 - 15:00Van Kleek et al. Social personal data stores: The nuclei of decentralized social machines.
15:00 - 15:10Tinati et al. A streaming real-time Web Observatory architecture for monitoring the health of social machines.
15:10 - 15:45Open discussion
15:45 - 16:00Coffee break
16:00 - 17:00Panel
17:00 - 17:30Conclusions and wrap up


Workshop chairs are:
  • Prof. Dame Wendy Hall (University of Southampton, UK) is a Professor of Computer Science at the University of Southampton. She is perhaps best known for her pioneering work in the area of Web Science. Through several significant roles of leadership and management, she has been instrumental in shaping the agenda for Engineering policy and education, and her work has earned recognition as Dame Commander of the British Empire in the 2009 UK New Year's Honours list, and as a Fellow of the Royal Society in June 2009. Wendy's research interests cover a broad set of issues within the areas of multimedia and hypermedia. She has particular involvement in the novel challenges embedded within Digital Libraries and the Semantic Web. Involvement with a platform grant (SOCIAM) embraces the desire to create social systems on the web - social machines - that are efficient, interrogatable, and capable of solving complex problems at a large scale.
  • Prof. David de Roure (University of Oxford, UK) is Professor of e-Research at University of Oxford and Director of the Oxford e-Research Centre. Focused on advancing digital scholarship, David works closely with multiple disciplines including social sciences (studying social machines), digital humanities (computational musicology), creative industries (semantic audio), astrophysics (Square Kilometre Array radio telescope and citizen science), and computer science (large scale distributed systems and social computing). He has strategic responsibility for Digital Humanities at Oxford. He was closely involved in the UK e-Science programme and held a national role from 2009-2013 as the UK National Strategic Director for Digital Social Research for the Economic and Social Science Research Council, for whom he is now a strategic advisor for social media research data.
  • Prof. Sir Nigel Shadbolt (University of Southampton, UK) is a Professor of Artificial Intelligence in the School of Electronics and Computer Science at the University of Southampton. He is Chairman and Co-Founder of the Open Data Institute (ODI). Launched in December 2012, the ODI focuses on unlocking supply and stimulating demand for open data. It promotes the creation of economic, environment and societal value from open data releases. Since 2009, Nigel has acted as an Information Advisor to the UK Government, helping transform public access to Government information, including the widely acclaimed data.gov.uk site. In 2010 he was appointed to the Public Sector Transparency Board responsible for setting open data strategy across the public sector. He chairs the Local Public Data Panel, seeking to promote and develop open data approaches within local government and the UK midata program whose goal is to empower consumers through access to their data. In 2013 he was appointed a member of the UK's Information Economy Council. Nigel is a Director of the Web Science Trust and of the Web Foundation which have a common commitment to advance understanding of the Web and promote its positive impact on society. He is Principal Investigator on the SOCIAM project.
Workshop organizers are:
  • Dr. Elena Simperl (University of Southampton, UK) is Associate Professor in the Web Science and Internet Group at the University of Southampton. Her research interests include knowledge engineering, Social Web technologies, and crowdsourcing. She has contributed and led over 15 national and European research projects and authored more than 75 scientific publications, and chaired the European Semantic Web Conference (ESWC) in 2011 and 2012 and the European Data Forum (EDF) in 2013. Elena was the coordinator of the European research project INSEMTIVES, which studied the characteristics and realization of incentives-compatible semantic applications with the help of social computing techniques, user-centered design, mechanism design, and game mechanics. She is vice-president of STI International, director of the ESWC summer school, the Asian Semantic Web School, and the IEEE Summer School on Semantic Computing. She is the founder of semsphere GmbH, a professional training company in the area of semantic technologies, and co-editor-in-chief of the newly launched Journal of Human Computation.
  • Dr. Thanassis Tiropanis (University of Southampton, UK is Associate Professor with the Web and Internet Science Group at the University of Southampton in the UK. His research interests include Web Science, Web Observatories, Social Machines, linked data for HE and distributed data infrastructures for analytics. Thanassis has worked for 20 years in EU and national research projects on Telecom, Internet and Web infrastructures for research, multimedia services and learning. He has co-authored over 90 publications in these areas the most recent ones being on Web Observatory design, interoperability, infrastructure and analytics. He has been in the organising committee of workshops at the WWW and the ACM Web Science conferences over the last three years and he is currently the technical coordinator of the EU Internet Science Network of Excellence (EINS). He holds a PhD in Computer Science from University College London and he is a senior member of the IEEE, a chartered IT professional with the BCS, and a professional member of the ACM.
  • Dr. Matthew Weber (Rutgers University, USA) is an Assistant Professor in the School of Communication and Information. He received his PhD in 2010 from the Annenberg School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Southern California. He previously worked as a postdoctoral research associate at the Center for Technology, Entertainment and Media (CTEM) at Duke University's Fuqua School of Business. Matthew's research examines organizational change and adaptation, both internal and external, in response to new information communication technology. His recent work focuses on the transformation of the news media industry in the United States in reaction to new forms of media production. This includes a large-scale longitudinal study examining strategies employed by media organizations for disseminating news and information in online networks. Matthew utilizes mixed methods in his work, including social network analysis, archival research and interviews.
Publicity chair:

Programme Committee

Supported by

The workshop is supported by the SOCIAM: The Theory and Practice of Social Machines project.


For more information, questions or comments, please contact socm2015@easychair.org .