Socialbots: Voices from the Fronts
Pacific Social Architecting Corporation | firstname.lastname@example.org
Pacific Social Architecting Corporation | email@example.com
Bennington College | firstname.lastname@example.org
March + April 2012
The Social Mediator forum was created to bridge the gaps
between the theory and practice of social media research and
development. The articles are intended to promote greater awareness of new insights and experiences in the rapidly evolving
domain of social media, some of which may influence perspectives and approaches in the more established areas of human-computer interaction. Each article in the forum is made up of
several short contributions from people representing different
perspectives on a particular topic. Previous installments of this
forum have woven together diverse perspectives on the ways that
social media is transforming relationships among different stakeholders in the realms of healthcare and government.
The current article highlights some of the ways social robots
(socialbots)—programs that operate autonomously on social networking sites—are transforming relationships within those sites,
and how these transformations may more broadly influence relationships among people and organizations in the future. A recent
article in Communications of the ACM called “The Social Life of
Robots” reported that “researchers have started to explore the
possibilities of ‘social’ machines capable of working together with
minimal human supervision” [ 1]. That article illuminates recent
developments involving interactions between humans and robots
in the physical world; this article focuses on the interactions
between humans and robots in the virtual world.
Our authors are exploring and expanding the frontiers of
designing, deploying, and analyzing the behavior and impact of
robots operating in online social networks, and they have invited
a number of other frontierspeople to share some of their insights,
experiences, and future expectations for social robotics.
Social Mediator Forum Editor
For a heart-stopping few minutes on May 6, 2010, the Dow
Jones Industrial Average dropped
a staggering 1,000 points—and
inexplicably proceeded to recover
all of those losses within the following few minutes. The Flash
Crash, as it was later dubbed,
remains the biggest one-day point
decline in Dow Jones history [ 2].
After a five-month investigation,
the SEC reported that the sudden loss and gain that day was
the result of an unusually large
number of contracts being sold
by a mutual fund, which triggered a wave of aggressive sell-off
activity from untold numbers of
firms running automated high-frequency trading programs [ 3].
No human agency was at the
heart of the momentary crash.
Instead, it appears that unanticipated interactions among multiple
automated scripts designed to
buy and sell stock produced the
precipitous fall and rise in prices.
Financial robots may also be
behind the otherwise inexplicable
correlations between mentions of
the actor Anne Hathaway in the
news and increases in the stock
price of Warren Buffet’s Berkshire
Hathaway fund [ 4].