x New: Final program and schedule available below.

WWW2013 Workshop:

The Theory and Practice of Social Machines

A workshop at the WWW 2013 conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

This workshop proposes to derive the characterisation of social systems on the Web as "social machines", computational entities governed by both computational and social processes. The purpose of such a model is to enable the effective identification and interrogation of the components, processes, properties and limits of such systems, in particular that enable them to solve complex social and computational problems in a decentralized fashion, at large scale. The objective of this workshop is to bring together experts of various kinds of online social systems, including crowd-powered systems, social networks, and online communities, to jointly refine the model and apply it to the study and design of new kinds of social systems.


The significance of the Turing machine for classical computation stemmed from its establishing a common model through which the limits and properties of computation could be effectively interrogated. Sixty-four years after this model was proposed, we now witness new kinds of "machines" governed not purely by computational processes, but by collective social processes resulting from the amalgam of individual action and coordination, mediated and enabled by the shared communication substrate of the Web.

This workshop proposes to investigate whether a similar model could be derived for the purposes of interrogating the properties and limits of the social systems enabled by the Web. By studying the breadth of Web-based social systems through a single, unifying lens, inclusive of online communities, social networks, and "human-powered", crowd-sourced, -moderated and -curated systems, this workshop will seek to address the following kinds of questions: what are the governing properties, characteristics, scopes and capabilities of these new "social machines"? What are the constructs that differentiate their function and operation? How have the design of these systems evolved and grown to support or contradict community appropriation? What are the social and computational "primitives" of a social machine, and what are appropriate methods that can be applied to study and predict the behaviour of such systems? Finally, how do the characteristics the behaviour of social machines relate to the needs of societies as a whole?

The theme of this workshop derives from concepts introduced by Tim Berners-Lee in Weaving the Web, where the Web was described as engine to "create abstract social machines - new forms of social processes that would be given to the world at large", and serves as the focus of and a new joint Research Programme Grant funded by the EPSRC[1].


The objectives of this workshop are to leverage the expertise brought by workshop participants towards understanding the use and application of social machines as a model. Examples of research questions and areas that we wish to understand include:

  1. Describing social machines - What are the constructs (dimensions/characteristics) that describe and differentiate current social machines when viewed as a collective?
  2. Socio-cognitive-computational primitives of social machines - Can the operation, function and output of social machines be described or identified in terms of a finite set of "social primitives" comprised of both computational and social functions?
  3. Evolution and adaptation - what forces govern the birth, evolution and demise of social machines? How do users adapt and appropriate platforms and substrates to better support social computation?
  4. Management structures - How do the management structures of different social machines affect their function and meet their purposes? Are bottom-up (grass-roots) driven social machines characteristically different from top-down (mechanical turk style)
  5. Machines and substrates - Do "general" social networking sites (such as Facebook, reddit, Twitter) evolve into social machines when faced with a crisis or a purpose?

Although we do not wish to restrict discussion to these particular topics, we hope that these can serve as a basis that can be extended with additional topics of interest as assessed by submissions received.

Workshop format

The workshop will span a full day, commencing with a keynote introduction and closing with focused discussion session. During the workshop, we will have brief presentation 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. Papers will be up to 5 pages long in ACM format. We are expecting to accept up to 12 papers.

Final Programme

The final schedule is as follows:

13:00Workshop begins!
13:00-14:30Session 1: Framing and IntroductionSession chair: Nigel R. Shadbolt, University of Southampton
Setting the Context: Challenges in Social MachinesNigel Shadbolt
Social Machines: A Unified Paradigm to Describe Social Web-Oriented SystemsVanilson Burégio, Silvio Meira, Nelson Rosa
14:30-15:00Coffee Break & Discussion
15:00-16:30Session 2: Understanding Social MachinesSession Chair: Dame Wendy Hall, University of Southampton
Towards a Classification Framework for Social MachinesNigel R. Shadbolt, Daniel A. Smith, Elena Simperl, Max Van Kleek, Yang Yang, Wendy Hall
Observing Social Machines Part 1: Understanding the Development of Social MachinesDavid De Roure, Clare Hooper, Megan Meredith-Lobay, Kevin Page, Ségolène Tarte, Don Cruickshank, Catherine De Roure
The HTP Model: Understanding the Development of Social MachinesRamine Tinati, Leslie Carr, Susan Halford, Catherine Pope
16:30-17:00Coffee Break & Discussion
17:00-18:30Session 3: Building Social MachinesSession Chair: Dave De Roure, University of Oxford
Linked Data in Crowdsourcing Purposive Social NetworkPriyanka Singh, Nigel R. Shadbolt
"The Crowd Keeps Me In Shape": Social Psychology and the Present and Future of Health Social MachinesMax Van Kleek, Daniel A. Smith, Wendy Hall, Nigel R. Shadbolt
A Few Thoughts on Engineering Social MachinesMarkus Strohmaier
18:30-19:30Session 4: Identity, Privacy and Information SensitivitySession Chair: Sue Moon, KAIST
Crime Applications and Social Machines: Crowdsourcing Sensitive DataMaire Byrne Evans, Kieron O'Hara, Thanassis Tiropanis, Craig Webber
Pseudonymity in Social MachinesBen Dalton
19:30-20:00Session 5: Closing discussion: A crowd-sourced view of the Workshop and next steps.


The principal organizers of the workshop are as follows:
  • Prof. Nigel Shadbolt (University of Southampton) - Prof. Nigel Shadbolt is Head of the Web and Internet Science Group in the School of Electronics and Computer Science at the University of Southampton. He is a Director of the Web Science Trust, and the Web Foundation, and with Prof. Sir Tim Berners-Lee, served Information Advisor by the Prime Minister to help transform public access to Government information. A major output of this work has been the widely acclaimed data.gov.uk site - a single point of access for all Government non-personal public data. He is Principal Investigator on the SOCIAM project.
  • Prof. Jeffrey Bigham (University of Rochester) - Dr. Jeffrey Bigham is Assistant Professor of the Computer Science department at Rochester University, Director of the RoC HCI, and former researcher at Microsoft Research (MSR). Jeff won the NSF faculty Career Award in 2012, and was named one of MIT Technology Review's TR35 ("Top 35 researchers under 35") in 2009 for accessibility research on the Web. His recent work has focused on human-powered systems, in particular on work on "real-time crowdsourcing" and crowd-powered accessibility.
  • Prof. Dave De Roure (Oxford University) - Prof. Dave De Roure (Oxford University) FBCS MIMA CITP is Professor of Research at University of Oxford. He serves as Director of the Oxford e-Research Centre (OeRC) and National Strategic Director for e-Social Science. Prof. De Roure is closely involved with the UK’s e-Science programme and is best known for the myExperiment, the Semantic Grid initiative, and the UK's Open Middleware Infrastructure Institute (OMII-UK).


Workshop participants must submit a short paper, comprising either a position paper stating a view pertaining to the identification or characterisation of web systems as social machines, or a study of an extant or nascent social machine.

Papers should be at most 5 pages in ACM SIG template format (as per the WWW2013 research track). At least one author of each paper is expected to register for the workshop and attend to present the paper.


The deadline for position papers is now 4 March 2013 (previously : 25 February 2013). Notifications will be sent on 13 March 2013.

The workshop will take place on 13 May 2013, at the Endereco, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.


To make a submission, please format your submission using the ACM HCI Archive Format, but keep your submission to a maximum of 5 pages.

Once you are ready, post your submission to SOCM2013 on EasyChair.


For more information, questions or comments, please contact emax (at) ecs.soton.ac.uk .