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Social Computing: social networks for productivity and learning
By: Cornelia Kutterer & Fabien Petitcolas, Senior Policy Counsel & Director for Innovation, Europe
22 February 2012

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Following on from a previous event on  Natural Computing,  we recently hosted an event on Social Computing, and how innovative minds are developing different avenues for people to share and exchange information online. Speakers included David Osimo from Tech4i2 and Paul Steckler and David Raskino, both of Microsoft Research FUSE Labs.

Thanks to his vast experience in Web 2.0, David argued that social computing goes deeper than social networking. Social computing is enhancing communication, collaboration, and thought. It is opening up access to data which were traditionally not made public. Technology and access to the world-wide web has opened up the discovery process. Technology has also allowed people to become closer to their lawmakers. With David and his partners’ commentneelie, they gathered Commissioner Kroes speeches and created a platform where people can critique her words. When Commissioner Kroes and her team learnt about the site, they decided to participate in the conversation. commentneelie allows people to collaborate and share their views and expertise in an online environment. Social computing has also facilitated a way to generate bigger data. Big data is just going to get bigger and Europe needs to find ways to harness raw data. David argued that there are plenty of opportunities ahead but calls for better EU framework conditions and to create a more agile innovation funding system 


              
            Upper left: David Osimo from Tech4i2
Upper right: Paul Steckler with So.cl
Left: David Raskino explaining So.cl


Another opportunity, as we found out from Paul Steckler, is in the area of ‘collaborative learning’. Paul presented and demonstrated So.cl to our audience. So.cl started as an idea: what if search was completely public? Once this idea was planted, So.cl grew into an experimental platform combining social networking, web browsing, and search within a collaborative learning environment. Because So.cl is still in the “wind-tunnel” phase, the So.cl team is able to improve the platform further by listening to focus groups, and by analysing the data available to them. David Raskino, shared with the audience that, even though the experiment started with 300 students from 3 different US universities, there are now approximately 22,000 users from around the world. So.cl works with an invite only system where So.cl users can invite peers to collaborate online. The internet facilitates collaborative platforms for information sharing. So.cl is a good example of how social computing has moved on from pure social networking. It is now in a stage where it has evolved into social learning platforms.

Both presentations generated a lively Q&A session with a strong focus on data privacy and ways to capitalise on raw data.  In a few years, we will think of “social computing” like we do with the “Internet” today. It’s pervasive and like the Internet itself, social media causes us to think about old challenges and try to solve them innovatively.

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