realizing the Value of social
media requires innovative
How social media are expanding traditional research and
development topics for computer and information scientists.
SOCial media teChnOlOgies uch as Facebook, Twitter, blogs, wikis, Flickr, and YouTube have garnered more than a billion users.
These platforms enable more than
friendly chatter and individual expression; they facilitate remarkably
diverse and broad participation while
accelerating the formation of effective collaborations.
Promising social media projects
suggest that dramatic transformations
are possible in health care, energy sustainability, environmental conservation, disaster response, and community safety.
14 Some commentators even
see social media as a means for economic revitalization through business
innovation, educational transformation, and civic revival.
15 However, there
are deep challenges in understanding
the benefits of social media and ameliorating their dangers. Computer,
information, and social scientists,
network analysts, system developers,
community managers, and many other professionals will have important
roles to play as they extend their disciplines with innovative research and
The potential for social media impact is illustrated by international upheavals such as the Iranian elections,
Wikileaks information releases, and
Egyptian democratic movement. In ad-
there are deep
of social media
dition, a variety of U.S. and other open
government efforts have been launched
recently to promote transparency, participation, and collaboration. For example,
data.gov promotes access to
detailed U.S. government agency performance data and
contracting information on the county-by-county use of stimulus money, leading to broader discussion, plus invitations to report fraud, abuse, and waste.
Increased participation and collaboration that changes the relationship
between government agencies and
the general public is beginning with
challenge.gov, which invites solutions
serve.gov to expand volunteering, and wiki-based deliberative
Web sites to request commentary on
agency directions or regulatory plans.
Social media present dangers too.
These include the potential for more
polarized discussions as users selectively view only materials aligned with
their world view and scientists retreat to narrow research topics (“
bal-kanization”) that limit the healthy interchange with related disciplines.
Another risk is reduced credibility of
online resources as rumors and misinformation spread, unfiltered by
traditional journalistic verification.
Social media can distract from deep
reflection as individuals respond to
frequent interruptions and collaborative production methods with free distribution can undermine established
reward systems, as journalists have
6 Breaches of privacy and security are frequently mentioned topics and so is identity theft,
online bullying, and disclosure of potentially damaging or embarrassing
Goals and Challenges for
Realizing the full value of social media requires research agendas that include understanding the mechanisms
for unleashing chain reactions of human contributions and collaborations
while preventing harmful outcomes
such as privacy violations, malicious
attacks, and misuse by terrorists, oppressive regimes, and criminals. Evo-