November 2009 Theme:
Society Online
Guest Editors' Introduction by Daniel Zeng and Hsinchun Chen

With the wide adoption of Web and mobile technologies and with the virtualization of many facets of everyday life as a backdrop, social computing takes a computational approach to the study and modeling of social interactions and communications. It also encompasses the development of information and communications technologies (ICTs) supporting these interactions. IEEE Intelligent Systems has presented this broadened view of social computing in several articles, including its March/April 2007 Trends and Controversies department and those in the September/October 2007 Social Computing special issue. In the past two years, activities in social computing research and practice have accelerated tremendously. For example, the IEEE Computer Society organized the inaugural International Conference on Social Computing in August 2009 aiming to facilitate the emergence of a social computing community.


Social computing relies on frameworks and findings from areas such as human-computer interaction and communication as well as on sociological, economic, psychological, organizational, and behavioral theories. ICT fields such as Web computing, agents, and mobile and ubiquitous computing have been providing technological underpinnings to enable social-computing applications.


We’ve seen social computing impact numerous technology fields. Social computing plays a central role in developing current and next-generation social software, computerizing various aspects of social activities such as community-based decision making, and helping to analyze how changing technologies and policies affect political, social, and cultural behavior. Other applications include Web-supported online communities, games and interactive entertainment, e-business applications such as social recommendations and viral marketing, and forecasting and decision making in the public sector.

For this theme of Society Online, we selected four articles from IEEE Computer Society magazines and one article from the First IEEE International Conference on Social Computing (its proceedings were published as Volume 4 of the IEEE CSE Conference). These articles explore a range of hot social computing research issues. The first two articles discuss two significant social computing applications. The third explores the mobile dimension of social computing. The last two articles investigate enabling technologies with applications in social computing: one on trustworthy computing and the other on visualization.

In “Social Meaning on the Web: From Wittgenstein To Search Engines,” (login required for full text) from IEEE Intelligent Systems’ Nov./Dec. 2009 issue, the authors argue for the importance of studying social semantics and demonstrate that information about users’ Web searching and browsing behavior can help identify high-quality structured information on the Semantic Web.

In the second article, “Friends Forever: How Young Adolescents Use Social-Networking Sites,” (login required for full text) from IEEE Intelligent Systems’ Nov./Dec. 2009 issue, the authors report findings from an ethnographic research study carried out in homes with children in early adolescence to find out the nature of their communication through social networking sites.

The third article, “The Use of Mobile Social Presence” (login required for full text) from IEEE Pervasive Computing, investigates how users can share experi¬ences using mobile devices and how context sharing in mobile environments affects communication and feelings of presence.

The fourth article, “The Evolution of Online Identity” (login required for full text) from IEEE Security & Privacy, discusses the need for improved online identity systems and related anonymity and privacy concerns, with significant implications on a variety of social computing applications.

The last article, “A Visual Interface for Social Information Filtering” from the 2009 International Conference on Computational Science and Engineering, presents a visualization-based recommender system that allows users to explore, understand, and visually interact with the system’s underlying data.

Related Resources

Numerous other articles from a wide range of journals and conferences deal with topics related to social computing; see our accompanying list of recommendations below. (Login required for full text)


Guest Editors

Daniel Zeng and Hsinchun Chen are with the Management Information Systems Department at the University of Arizona. Daniel Zeng is also affiliated with the Chinese Academy of Sciences. They both serve on IEEE Intelligent Systems’ editorial board. Contact them at {hchen, zeng} at eller dot arizona dot edu.