Wikipedia is an evolving social machine that has gone through a series of phases similar to the development of the Web. We are now in a position where studying Wikipedia – whether this is to examine its successes, failures, current state of health, or future direction – requires understanding it as a social machine within an entire eco-system of interactions.
Research Tools and Methods
In order to understand and analyse the functionality and pulse of the Web, we require tools and visualisations of the flows, exchanges of information, and activity of different social machines. The situation room is SOCIAM’s solution to monitoring, analysing and tracking the emergence and evolution of social machines on the Web. Driven by Web Observatory, the SOCIAM Macroscope provides a real-time observational window to examine and compare human and machine interaction at the macro and micro level.
The Web Observatory aims to become a global data, analytics, and visualisation environment for the advancement of research, and ultimately improving economic and social prosperity. Given the ever-increasing streams of Web data, the Web Observatory positions itself as a suitable environment to study the evolution and impact of the Web's ecosystem which operates at massive scale and is dominated by unexpected, emergent phenomena and radical user-led innovations in technology and society.
One of the big challenges of Social Machines when attempting to understand them is that they are dynamic systems; and this dynamic dimension can be attributed largely to the fact that they are social. It so follows that in order to understand social machines with the view to building them or to building systems that would support their emergence, one of the crucial tasks is to understand what sociality is in a social machine.
Alan Turing asked “Can machines think?” We ask: “Is the collective thinking on the Web a machine?” To answer this we study how information diffuses on the Web. We seek to capture the socio-technical algorithms that emerge from the interplay of manual human interactions with the technical capabilities and topological features of the infrastructure.