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Mathematical Foundations For Social Computing

Mathematical Foundations for Social Computing, illustration

A mosaic for the Milky Way Project that was created from data analyzed by citizen scientists at Zooniverse.

Credit: Zooniverse

Social computing encompasses the mechanisms through which people interact with computational systems: crowdsourcing systems, ranking and recommendation systems, online prediction markets, citizen science projects, and collaboratively edited wikis, to name a few. These systems share the common feature that humans are active participants, making choices that determine the input to, and therefore the output of, the system. The output of these systems can be viewed as a joint computation between machine and human, and can be richer than what either could produce alone. The term social computing is often used as a synonym for several related areas, such as "human computation" and subsets of "collective intelligence;" we use it in its broadest sense to encompass all of these things.

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Social computing is blossoming into a rich research area of its own, with contributions from diverse disciplines including computer science, economics, and other social sciences. The field spans everything from systems research directed at building scalable platforms for new social computing applications to HCI research directed toward user interface design, from studies of incentive alignment in online applications to behavioral experiments evaluating the performance of specific systems, and from understanding online human social behavior to demonstrating new possibilities of organized social interactions. Yet a broad mathematical foundation for social computing is yet to be established, with a plethora of under-explored opportunities for mathematical research to impact social computing.


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