The 4th International Workshop on the Theory and Practice of Social Machines

Observing social machines on the Web

A workshop at WWW2016, Montreal, Canada - 11 April 2016

Continuing from last years' "Theory and Practice of Social Machines" workshops at WWW2013, 2014, and 2015, the 2016 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). SOCM2016 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.

Philosophical Theories and Framework for Social Machines, describing and analyzing the philosophical implications of social machines including:

  • What are the ethics of social machines, and social machine research?
  • How would we view social machines through other philosophical lenses and ideologies (Critical, Feminist, Post-Colonialist, Pragmatic, Interpretivist, etc)?

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 WWW2016 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 SOCM2016 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

EXTENDED: 22 January 2016 23:59 Hawaii TimePaper submission deadline
29 January 2016Acceptance notifications
8 February 2016Camera ready version deadline
11 April 2016Workshop day


The tentative schedule looks as follows:

  • 09:00 - 09:30 Welcome and Opening

  • 09:30 - 10:30 Morning Keynote

    • Ramesh Jain, UCI. Micro-Reports Considered Essential for Situation Recognition

  • 10:30 - 11:00 Coffee break

  • 11:00 - 12:30 Morning Paper session - Theories and Trust

    • Jun Zhao, Reuben Binns, Max Van Kleek and Nigel Shadbolt. Privacy Languages: Are we there yet to enable user controls?

    • Caroline Halcrow, Leslie Carr and Susan Halford. Using the SPENCE model of online/offline community to analyse sociality of social machines

    • Arpit Merchant, Tushant Jha and Navjyoti Singh. The Use of Trust in Social Machines

    • Dirk Ahlers. Towards an Understanding of Smart Cities As Social Machines

  • 12:30 - 14:00 Lunch break

  • 14:00 - 15:30 Afternoon Paper Session - Studies and Engineering Social Machines

    • Sally A. Applin and Michael D. Fischer. Exploring Cooperation with Social Machines

    • Sindhu Kiranmai Ernala, Shivani Poddar, Navjyoti Singh and Ashin Samvara. Towards a Ubiquitous Model of an Individual in Social Machines

    • Paul Matthews. Going Meta: Norm Formation and Enactment on the Stack Exchange Network

    • Aastha Madaan, Thanassis Tiropanis, Srinath Srinivasa and Wendy Hall. Observlets: Empowering Analytical Observations on Web Observatory

  • 15:30 - 16:00 Coffee break

  • 16:00 - 17:00 Afternoon Keynote

    • Christopher Gutteridge.

  • 17:00 - 17:30 Conclusions and wrap up

Keynote Speaker

Title: Micro-Reports Considered Essential for Situation Recognition.

Speaker: Ramesh Jain. Department of Computer Science. University of California, Irvine (UCI)

The growth in social media, Internet of things, wearable devices, mobile phones, and planetary- scale sensing has resulted in incessant multimodal data streams that form the Big Data. An element in any of these streams is a micro-report of the observation at that moment. For detecting emerging situations in Cyber-Physical-Social systems, there is an unprecedented need and opportunity to assimilate, aggregate, and analyze torrent of these micro-reports. Traditional micro-blogs were a promising start but are subjective, noisy, and difficult to analyze and aggregate. Micro-reports are spontaneous, objective, compelling, and universal. Using a modeling and recognition platform EventShop, situations can be detected and predicted using multiple diverse available data streams. We will discuss micro-reports and demonstrate their effectiveness in situation detection. Similar framework is being developed at personal level to determine evolving personal situations. By combining personal and environmental situations, it is possible to connect needs of people to appropriate resources efficiently, effectively, and promptly. We will discuss this framework using examples.

Speaker Bio

Ramesh Jain is an entrepreneur, researcher, and educator.

He is a Donald Bren Professor in Information and Computer Sciences at University of California, Irvine where he is doing research in Event Web and experiential computing. Earlier he served on faculty of Georgia Tech, University of California at San Diego, The university of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Wayne State University, and Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur. He is a Fellow of ACM, IEEE, AAAI, IAPR, and SPIE. His current research interests are in processing massive number of geo-spatial heterogeneous data streams for building Smart Social System. He is the recipient of several awards including the ACM SIGMM Technical Achievement Award 2010. Ramesh co-founded several companies, managed them in initial stages, and then turned them over to professional management. These companies include PRAJA, Virage, and ImageWare. Currently he is involved in building Krumbs, a company building personalized visual web. He has also been advisor to several other companies including some of the largest companies in media and search space.


Workshop chairs are:
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
Workshop organizers are:
  • Dr. Dominic DiFranzo (University of Southampton, UK) is a Research Fellow with the Web and Internet Science Group at the University of Southampton in the UK. He currently works in the EPSRC funded project, SOCIAM, which involves researching the nature and development of social machines. His research involves collaborating with colleagues across the social sciences and humanities to translate the tools and methods from data science, e-science and informatics to address their research needs and purposes. This includes working with a wide array of research groups and projects including large-scale social network analysis, experimental ethnography, open government data, and web observatories. He holds a PhD in Computer Science from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and was a member of the Tetherless World Constellation.
  • Dr. Ramine Tinati (University of Southampton, UK) is a Research Fellow in the Web and Internet Science group. He works on the EPSRC funded project, SOCIAM, which involves developing methods and analytics to understand the development and connectivity of the Web. His current line of research involves exploring metrics to measure different forms of community-driven social machines, such as the popular citizen science project, Zooniverse, and the collective-knowledge platform, Wikipedia. He is also exploring the role of information diffusion as a means to detect cross-system information cascades, developing new methods for identifying and classifying motifs in real-time. Ramine is also part of the development team responsible for the Web Observatory, working on developing the necessary infrastructure to support real-time big data stream processing and querying. Ramine Holds a PhD in Web Science from the University of Southampton, an MSc in Web Science, and a BSc (Hons) in Computer Science.
  • Dr. Kevin Page (University of Oxford, UK) is a researcher at the e-¬≠Research Centre. His work on web architecture and the semantic annotation and distribution of data has, through participation in several UK, EU, and international projects, been applied across a wide variety of domains including sensor networks, music information retrieval, early English texts, clinical healthcare, and remote collaboration for space exploration. He is principal investigator of the Early English Print in HathiTrust (ElEPH√£T) and Semantic Linking of BBC Radio (SLoBR) projects, and leads Linked Data research at Oxford within the AHRC Transforming Musicology and EPSRC Fusing Audio and Semantic Technology (FAST) projects. He also works on the EU funded Smart Society project.

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 .