Social Object Networks

Harith Alani from KMi co-organised a workshop at the 3rd IEEE Conference on Social Computing which took place at MIT, Boston 9-11 October. The SocialObjects workshop focused on the new R&D challenges associated with management and analysis of multi-dimensional social networks.

The nuclei of most of today’s social networks are “Social Objects”; which are the objects around which people interact. Examples of such social objects include pictures on Flickr, songs on Last.fm, tags on Delicious, places on Foursquare, posts on Twitter, goods on Amazon, etc. Hence anything that allows people to connect, whether directly or indirectly, can be regarded as a social object, and can produce a social network graph.

Most current works, however, seem to flatten such multi-dimensional networks, where the social objects are often left out of the networks and analysis, and replaced with direct edges between the people in question (e.g. people who watched the same film on Netflix are represented as two directly connected nodes in a graph).

With more social networking sites becoming more open (e.g. through APIs, exportable profiles, 3rd party applications), it is now possible to generate very rich cross-community social networks that capture social connections in many different forms and around many different social objects. This raises a series of new questions and research challenges that this workshop highlighted, such as:

– What impact do the type and properties of a social object have on the particular social connection it generates?
– How do social connections and networks around heterogeneous social objects compare in terms of their dynamics and transitivity?
– What are the risks and opportunities associated with acquiring such multiple dimensional graphs?
– What technical challenges exist for acquiring, representing and analyzing such social-object centered networks?
– What new knowledge can be extracted from such rich object-centered social networks?
– How can social connections and interactions around specific social objects be fostered and exploited more intelligently for commercial and scientific purposes?
– What kind of new services and applications do knowledge captured through social objects networks enable?
– How do social object networks impact privacy of individuals and groups?

SocialObjects was co-organised with Jérôme Picault and Myriam Ribière from Bell Labs, Alcatel-Lucent, France, and with Iván Cantador from the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Spain.

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