Friday, February 17, 2006

Event: AGN Social Science Grid Seminar

Originally posted on Social Simulation on 17 February 2006

Gosh it's been a while. I've been busy, and things have passed me by. I'll catch up soon.

In other news, yesterday was chokka with interesting events. The first one was this:
From Disasters to World of Warcraft: Enabling Communities with Cyberinfrastructure with Prof. Noshir Contractor, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He works with networks. It happened via the AccessGrid.

Description:


Advances in digital technologies invite consideration of organizing within communities as a process that is accomplished by global, flexible, adaptive, and ad hoc networks that can be created, maintained, dissolved, and reconstituted with remarkable alacrity. This presentation will outline the major socio-technical challenges for the successful development, deployment, and growth of cyberinfrastructure to support communities engaged in a wide range of activities such as disaster response, environmental engineering, public health, economic resilience, educational diversity, and gaming (using as an example our research on WoW - the World of Warcraft). In particular it will underscore the importance of a harvesting relational metadata (popularly know as “tags”).



It was very techno-exciting. Through the National Centre for e-Social Science (NCeSS), multiple UK universities linked up and receiving a seminar presentation from Prof Contractor. Like SL but in the real world. Neat!

Here are some of my notes from the social networks/WoW presentation:


Lovegety: strange Japanese linking thing which is a compatability/dating device that react when another compatable device is within range.

Social Petworking (SNIF), as reported by Wired, links pets and their owners based upon which dogs play together when out on walkies.

Both of these address the challenges of connecting with people we want to connect with.

Social Networking:
Not what you know but who you know (Social network)
Not who you know but who they think you know (Cognitive social network)
Not who you know, what they think you know (Knowledge network)
It's not who you know, it's what who you know knows (Cognitive knowledge network).

All of this has to do with connectivity.

The technologising of cognitive knowledge networks is what makes my email/Amazon/eBay think I need a penis enlargement/am gay etc. It relies on human-computer-network-me perceptions of what the computer (once removed from the human) thinks I need to know.

Contractor argues, as do many others, that technology doesn't destroy person to person interaction, noting that the more he puts on the intranet, the more people come to him in person and contacted him via email. Perhaps the reasons for this are that it was a signpost of the nuances of his knowledge, or because by posting stuff online/on intranet he indicated that he wanted to share.

However, it's relatively clear that technology enables links between human to human.

He's just released a book (Theories of Communication Networks: Monge & Contractor, 2003) which covers the major theories of why actors create, maintain, dissolve and reconstitute network links. They are:

*Theories of self-interest
*Theories of social and resource exchange
*Theories of mutual interest and collective action
*Theories of contagion
*Theories of balance (friend to friend, could counter theories of self-interest)
*Theories of homophily
*Theories of proximity (both physical and conceptual - AOL IM research he's conducted indicates that 50% of people on buddy lists are physically dis-proximate, and 50% are close to very close physically proximate)
*Theories of co-evolution

Definitions of community - enabling through cyber-infrastructure
Wikipedia focusses on community as "somethign to defend"
Williams (1983) says community is commonality
Anderson, B. (1983) says communities can be imagined, which makes a case for virtual community.

Matt's warchalking is cited as an example of a Web 2.0 contemporary virtual community - as people have pooled resources to connect to one another.

The NSF is interested in this area. They published a report called Revolutionizing Science and Engineering through CyberInfrastructure. It also has an office of cyberinfrastructure.

Definition of Cyberinfrastructure: features which facilitate seamless interaction and interconnections through the use of internet technologies.

Enhancing cyberinfrastructure:
*how can we know what we know? (discovery)
*how good is it at scanning, absorbing, diffusing, is it robust/vulnerable? (diagnosis)
*social design based upon what the community wants to do (e.g., exploring, mobilisation, exploitation) (design)

He is interested in exploiting Relational Metadata:
*wikis (empty shells)
*captured (e.g., blogrolls, technorati, trackbacks)
*tags (social bookmarking, social tagging, citations, libraries, shopping networks)
*manifesting community - how do we harvest relational metadata?

His department is working with the NSF and other organisations to create search engines which rely upon this relational metadata in order to present, e.g., key player to connect to on a particular topic, ordered based upon models of the theories of community (including similarity etc.) - there are some serious privacy issues here, thought, and this was glossed over.

What about social inclusion using these relational metadata? Facebook, MySpace and other social technologies deal with social inclusion, but also have to deal with exclusion practices (e.g., in the US the current controversy is that parents are excluded from teenagers' online communities).

He cites Marin Lea for understanding how identity is formed in these communities.



More seminars in the series are here and include
Biodiversity and Bioeconomy and Why is So Much Research Relevant?

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