Academic journal article Journal of the Association for Information Systems

Research Issues in Social Computing *

Academic journal article Journal of the Association for Information Systems

Research Issues in Social Computing *

Article excerpt


Social Computing and online communities have ushered in a new era of the web, where information and communication technologies are facilitating organized human endeavor in fundamentally new ways. The broad impact of social computing in diverse domains and the complexity of features that span diverse disciplines pose new challenges for Information Systems researchers. Information Systems research should expand its scope and adapt theories and methodologies from even more disciplines to address this challenge. This phenomenon has diverse theoretical connections and bridges social and technical aspects. Thusit offers an ideal opportunity for IS researchers to take the lead in demonstrating the focus of IS in cross-disciplinary research and emphasizing praxis. We outline salient traits of social computing as a precursor to discussing research challenges. Research issues related to organization theory, property rights, motivational and social aspects, and network dynamics are discussed. We emphasize aspects where social computing may offer insights for reference disciplines. We also discuss research issues in the business deployment of social computing, including network effects, trust and reputation, business models, market structure, and customer interaction. We indicate thatthe field of IS can point the way to using social computing in transforming research and education.

Keywords: Social Computing, Mechanism Design, Communities, Networks, Web 2.0, Information Systems, Paradigms, Disciplinary Identity, Social Networks, Social Capital, Theory of the Firm, Intellectual Property, Corporate Governance, Trust, Reputation, Network Effects, Reciprocity, Network Dynamics

1. Introduction

Through the end of the twentieth century, advances in computing and networking technologies largely manifested themselves in dramatic shifts in business computing. Many of the new trends emphasized organizational computing, in diverse domains like enterprise resource systems, customer relationship management, and electronic commerce. However, the 21st Century has seen new trends emerge in social computing, where the scope shifts from corporations to social organizations, and the structure shifts from top-down to bottom-up. Social computing initiated at the grassroots level has been growing quickly in several divergent sectors: some leading to real business models, while others remain community oriented. Some of the better known social computing initiatives include blogging; Wikipedia; flickr; social networks like orkut, MySpace, Bebo, FaceBook, and LinkedIn, social bookmarking services like; and multiple initiatives from Google. Recently, the Hollywood film Snakes on a Plane took social computing to a new level by enlisting online fans to contribute to the making of the movie, as well as to its publicity campaign (Biggs, 2006). Social computing also impacts various other domains such as politics, education, and arts.

The emergence of social computing raises new research challenges for information systems researchers. Research in information systems (IS) needs to evolve to encompass new theories and methodologies that can address questions posed by social computing, which extends the scope of usage of information and computing tools to the realm of social endeavor. IS research needs to guide organizations in adapting to the changes in their environments induced by social computing. We suggest that the information systems community needs to focus on this emerging domain as a priority topic, and, in the process, evolve the core of research in the discipline itself.

The remainder of this paper is organized as follows. Section 2 presents an overview of social software, focusing on common traits. Section 3 discusses general research issues related to social software. Section 4 discusses research issues in the interaction of business and social computing. Section 5 concludes.

2. Overview

A bevy of factors, including more powerful and affordable end user machines, a faster network edge1 with more redundant connectivity, advances in easy-to-use tools for creating and sharing content, and a proliferation of portable and wireless platforms that promote a more technologically empowered lifestyle have led to the empowerment of the individual user. …

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