Using Social Computational Concepts to Enhance Project Dissemination and Sustainability

Computer Science Research Collaborators: Joseph Canero and Conor Kelton.
(Samantha Swartz, IMM major, designed the CABECT logo and site.)

This project was funded in Summer 2013 by TCNJ’s MUSE program and the School of Science.

The primary goal of the project was to investigate how social computational concepts can be leveraged to address the challenges of effective dissemination of the results and artifacts of the CABECT project, as well as sustaining the project beyond the funding period.

Here’s what Conor has to say about the experience:

“This Summer my MUSE experience was unique in all regards. Working with a partner to develop a project from the ground up was initially a task I thought to be overwhelming. The research, Human and Social Computation, and Technologies, Web Development Languages and Database systems, were all factors of which I had not previously worked with in the classroom. However MUSE provided an environment suited for learning as much as possible, and so I planned to do just that. Taking the project step by step, small term goal by small term goal, my partner and I began to gain better understanding of not only the topics relevant to our project but our project goal itself, refining our work each and every day. Relevant filed trips to a graduate school class at the University of Pennsylvania as well as a trip to New York City to see WeWork Labs, a big city company that helps small software start ups  gave me insight as to environments outside the undergraduate setting and allowed me to start a plan for post graduation. When the project was finished we were in fact astounded with what we had done and learned, so much so that we felt we could share it with our peers in a very thorough presentation of our topic. Overall, not only did I learn how to become a better researcher in topics relative to my field, and not only did I grasp knowledge of technology used every day by professionals in my field, but I was able to feel for the first time what it is like to carry the responsibilities of teamwork and project creation, principles that I will carry when transitioning into a professional myself.”

Project Background:

The term “social computing” generally refers to the use of social software such as blogs, Facebook, etc. Increasingly, websites are taking advantage of users’ engagement with social computing to obtain and share information. However, there are concerns about the reliability of data provided and validity of reviews. A stronger term, “social computational system,” refers to the intersection of social behavior and computational systems that supports gathering and dissemination of information by large groups of people. This emerging area of research, leverages the collective intelligence of a community, to solve complex problems or gather and manage data. Such systems tap into uniquely human abilities that can produce results that are of higher quality and reliability than machines. For example, ESP and Foldit motivate people to perform image recognition, an ability that is trivial for humans but computationally intensive for machines, by packaging the tasks as games. Similarly, Duolingo takes advantage of people’s desire to learn foreign languages, to translate Wikipedia into other languages. Students in my “Topics” class in the Fall 2012 semester designed prototypes for systems that engaged users in innovative ways to perform tedious tasks like typing captions for videos or lyrics for songs. We posit that leveraging social computational concepts in a web-based collaborative framework for a project can similarly motivate potential adopters and interested people to become active participants in the dissemination and sustainability of a project.