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SOCIAM: The Theory and Practice of Social Machines

1st August 2015 to 31st May 2018
More than 65 years after the first "Turing Machine" was described by Alan Turing as a "simple yet abstract computational device that enabled investigation of what can be computed", we are now witnessing and embracing new kinds of systems. These are governed not purely by computational processes, but also by collective, harnessed and focused social interaction between humans using our computing milieu.

These Social Machines are the focus of “SOCIAM - the theory and practice of Social Machines”. SOCIAM is a partnership between researchers from Southampton, Oxford and Edinburgh Universities who have embarked on a five-year (2012-2017) research programme. This project derives from concepts introduced by Tim Berners-Lee in his book Weaving the Web, where the Web is described as an engine to "create abstract social machines - new forms of social processes that would be given to the world at large”. You can find examples and information about the types of Social Machines that exist in the Social Machines section of the main SOCIAM website.

The ultimate ambition of SOCIAM is to enable us to understand how the Social Machines evolve in the wild and what factors influence their success and evolution. Its aim is to develop both theory and practice so that we can create the next generation of Social Machines.

The core objective of SOCIAM is to establish the research, methods, tools, networks and collaborations to allow us to understand social machines, in order that they can be designed and deployed by the full range of potential beneficiaries. The research is complex, as the 'components' of the social machine are both human and technological; the incentives for participation vary widely from personal gain to reciprocity to social responsibility to altruism, while problem identification and solution design are both radically decentralised.

Selected Publications

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Principal Investigator


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