Social Computing

Computing is everywhere. It is important here to make a dissociation between computing and computers. Computers are tools with which computing can be performed. Computing, in turn, is the act of solving problems from an algorithm. And that involves an informational and cognitive dimension, that is, based on what and how I solve a problem.

Computing on the social

For a long time, computing was performed either mentally or through objects such as pen and paper. In our time, we find a world in which we understand computing as that performed by high-tech machines, and which can solve problems that would otherwise be very time-consuming.

As modern computing advances, social relationships evolve through computer systems. The Web opened the door for human beings to experiment with new ways of relating. Such relationships have expanded and influenced the social fabric in a way never seen before, reflecting in practically all areas of life.

Social computing is a concept that can be used to describe both computer systems with a focus on social relationships, and research that studies the relationship between computer systems and society.

The social relations that operate through the Web have influenced politics, jeopardizing democratic systems; in the economy, where most economic transactions are made; in health, either through telemedicine or the impact on health that these relationships have accentuated; among many other areas.

From the point of view of social impacts, one could think that this topic is of interest to sociologists only. However, computer scientists have deep knowledge of how computing operates, and can apply computational models and techniques to find answers to their research questions.

In addition, software systems are mostly developed by computer scientists, and the implications of such creations are of interest to creators.

Research in Social Computing

The idea of Social Computing came up in 1940, when researchers took the first steps to apply modern computing not only to perform complex calculations, but also to communicate. It was only in 1971 that the first such system emerged, with the creation of email by Raymond Tomlison. In 1980, there were already several systems that used the network to communicate, but it was only in the 1990s, when Tim Berners-Lee created the Web, that it gained strength. In the 2000s, social networking systems were the most popular on the Web.

In 2013, Maria R. Lee et al. from Shih Chien University in Taiwan published a survey with the most common themes in Social Computing research. Despite the transformations of the last few years, many themes have not yet been exhausted, and new themes continue to appear in scientific journals and conferences.

Intrinsic and extrinsic motivationInvestigate why users participate in community projects (like Wikipedia), open source projects, or projects that provide social value and improve reputation.
Community structureAim to quantify the evolution of social groups
Social modeling and simulationComputational approach to simulate multi-agent or single-agent systems.
Collaborative filterAim to predict users preferences through a group of features.
Context-aware computingExplore contextual information (location, close people, etc.) from devices and services.
Collaborative taggingSolutions for tagging photos and other content that help promote social navigation and shared expression.
Human-Computer InteractionFocus on studying, planning and designing the interaction between humans (users) and computers and represents the confluence between psychology, social sciences, computer science and technology.
Privacy ProtectionExplore aspects related to the privacy of users who share information on social networks.
Social interactionInvestigate the interaction between social groups in technologies such as email, Skype, Facebook.
Reputation and trust managementFocus on understanding or influencing the reputation of an individual or company brand and processes symbolic representations of social trust.
LurkersFocus on studying those who are not engaged in publishing and distributing content, but just observe what is happening. For example, parents who have Facebook just to keep an eye on their children.
Situated LearningInvestigate learning processes in social networks.
Measurement of social networksanalyze social networks for the discovery of insights, measure network impact, identify opportunities for involvement and knowledge sharing. Put an interest in emerging trends and public opinion.
Affective computingSeek the development of systems and devices to simulate human effects - facial, vocal and gestural.
Information SocietyRefers to the creation, distribution, dissemination, use, integration and manipulation activities in an information society related to the economic, political and cultural context.

Perspectives in Social Computing

Social computing has become one of the areas of Computer Science of greatest public interest. The manipulation of elections and factual truth through social networks is a problem that researchers from different areas of science have been working on.

There are many challenges around social computing, and they require quick responses. Complex problems require breaking the barriers usually imposed in the scientific environment, promoting transdisciplinary knowledge. Thus, it is common for social computing to use a more modern scientific paradigm, proposed by Complexity Theory, which promotes an interdisciplinary view of complex adaptive systems, the emergent behavior of many systems, the complexity of networks, the chaos theory, the behavior of systems distanced from thermodynamic equilibrium and their faculties of self-organization.


  • Lee, M. and Tsung Teng Chen. “Understanding Social Computing Research.” IT Professional 15 (2013): 56-62.

  • Ponciano, Lesandro & Andrade, Nazareno. (2018). Perspectivas em Computação Social.