Theoretical Foundations for Social Computing

Social computing encompasses the mechanisms through which people interact with computational systems---for instance, crowdsourcing platforms, ranking and recommendation systems, online prediction markets, or collaboratively edited wikis. Social computing is blossoming into a rich research area of its own, with contributions from diverse disciplines spanning computer science, economics, sociology, systems research, and HCI, to name just a few.

Foundational theoretical research has great potential to influence and shape the future of social computing. However, while there is a small literature using theoretical models to analyze and propose design recommendations for social computing systems, there are several barriers that must be overcome and questions that must be answered before theory can have the same degree of impact on social computing that it has had in other fields:

  • What are the fundamental social computing problems? Is it possible to identify problems that are general enough to capture the core challenges of social computing across a wide range of applications, yet capture real issues?
  • What are the right models? A growing literature suggests that human behavior in many online settings often deviates from standard economic models of agent behavior, and that these deviations can have significant effects on how to optimally design social computing systems. Defining appropriate models requires a dialog between theory and experimental and empirical research.
  • How should we measure success? When evaluating the progress of the field as a whole, the criteria for success are vague, especially given that the capabilities and uses of social computing systems are changing all the time.

This visioning workshop has three major goals:

  •  Identify core problems that the community believes are important to focus on in order to establish theoretical foundations of social computing.
  • Identify ways in which the theory community can learn from existing, ongoing, and future empirical and experimental work.
  • Identify effective ways for the theory community to have impact on social computing in practice.


Date: June 29-30, 2015
Location: Hotel Sofitel, Washington, DC

The Computing Community Consortium (CCC) will cover travel expenses for all participants who desire it. The CCC will make hotel reservations (as indicated on your registration) at the workshop hotel.  Participants will be asked to make their own travel arrangements to get to the workshop, including purchasing airline tickets. Following the symposium, CCC will circulate a reimbursement form that participants will need to complete and submit, along with copies of receipts for amounts exceeding $75.

In general, standard Federal travel policies apply: CCC will reimburse for non-refundable economy airfare on U.S. Flag carriers; per diem amounts will be enforced; and no alcohol will be covered.For more information on Federal reimbursement guidelines, please follow the links below: 

General Travel
International Travel

Additional questions about the reimbursement policy should be directed to Ann Drobnis, CCC Director (adrobnis [at]


June 29

8:00-9:00 Registration and breakfast

9:00-9:15 Welcome, overview of agenda and proposed goals

9:15-10:45 Panel (Eric Gilbert, Ashish Goel, Joseph Konstan, David Parkes)

10:45-11:15 Break

11:15-12:00 1-minute intros

12:00-1:00 Lunch

1:00-1:45 Short talks (David McDonald, Sid Suri, Arpita Ghosh)

1:45-2:00 Organize into breakout groups

2:00-2:45 Breakout discussions 1 (part 1)

2:45-3:15 Break 3:15-4:00 Breakout discussions 1 (part 2)

4:00-4:30 Reports from breakout session

4:30-5:00 Group discussion

6:30 Dinner

June 30

8:00-9:00 Breakfast

9:00-9:30 Short talk (Michael Kearns) and organization into breakout groups

9:30-10:15 Breakout discussions 2 (part 1)

10:15-10:45 Break 10:45-11:30 Breakout discussions 2 (part 2)

11:30-12:00 Reports from breakout session

12:00-1:00 Lunch

1:00-2:30 Discussion, feedback, and wrap-up


Click on a person's name to see their slides. 



Jenn Wortman Vaughan
Microsoft Research

Arpita Ghosh

Yiling Chen

Tim Roughgarden

With Support From:

Lorenzo Alvisi
UT Austin

Ann Drobnis
Director, CCC

Tal Rabin
IBM Research

Salil Vadhan



Participant Bios