Technology-mediated social participation is generated when social networking tools (such as Facebook), blogs and microblogs (Twitter), user-generated content sites (YouTube), discussion groups, problem reporting, recommendation systems, and other social media are applied to national priorities such as health, energy, education, disaster response, environmental protection, business innovation, cultural heritage, or community safety.
Fire, earthquake, storm, fraud, or crime reporting sites provide information to civic authorities, AmberAlert has more than 7 million users who help with information on child abductions, Peer-to-Patent provides valuable information for patent examiners, and the SERVE.GOV enables citizens to volunteer for national parks, museums and other institutions. These early attempts hint at the vast potential for technology-mediated social participation, but substantial research is needed to scale up, raise motivation, control malicious attacks, limit misguided rumors, and protect privacy (http://iparticipate.wikispaces.com).
As national initiatives are launched in several countries to dramatically increase research and education on social media, a coordinated approach will be helpful. Clearly stated research challenges should have three key elements: (1) close linkage to compelling national priorities (2) scientific foundation based on established theories and well-defined research questions (privacy, reciprocity, trust, motivation, recognition, etc.), and (3) computer science research challenges (security, privacy protection, scalability, visualization, end-user development, distributed data handling for massive user-generated content, network analysis of community evolution, cross network comparison, etc.).
Potential short-term interventions include:
• universities changing course content, adding courses, and offering new degree programs
• industry helping researchers by providing access to data and platforms for testing
• government agencies applying these strategies in pilot studies related to national priorities