Characterising Social Machines

  • Nigel Shadbolt
  • Kieron O’Hara
  • David De Roure
  • Wendy Hall
Part of the Lecture Notes in Social Networks book series (LNSN)


This opening chapter introduces the idea of social machines. The metaphor of a machine is introduced, and it is explained how it applies to social groups connected through digitally networked technologies, ubiquitous devices and large quantities of data. Social machines enable mechanistic explanations of social phenomena, without the reductionist claim that these social groups are determined by the technology. Building blocks of the social machines concept are enumerated and described, including heterogeneous human-computer networks, social computing, communication, platforms and communities, ecosystems of social machines, dynamics of networks and various ethical concepts. Examples of social machines are introduced, including Wikipedia, citizen science social machines such as Zooniverse and Eyewire, healthcare social machines and Pokémon Go! After considering ways of classifying social machines, and contrasting social machines with similar concepts such as crowdsourcing and social computing, it is argued that producing a definition of social machines would be counterproductive, such is the fluidity of the concept and its social and technical contexts. Instead, the book will consider how technologically enabled social groups can be studied through a social machine lens.


Annotation Antisocial machines Antitrust Berners-Lee, Tim Citizen science Collective intelligence Communication Crowdsourcing DARPA challenge Distributed systems Ethics Exploitation Eyewire Facebook Healthcare social machines Human computation Mechanical Turk Multi-agent systems Open innovation Open source Platforms Pokémon Go! reCAPTCHA Social computing Social machine Telos Trust Twitter Wikipedia Wisdom of crowds Zooniverse 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nigel Shadbolt
    • 1
  • Kieron O’Hara
    • 2
  • David De Roure
    • 3
  • Wendy Hall
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Computer ScienceUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK
  2. 2.Electronics and Computer ScienceUniversity of SouthamptonSouthamptonUK
  3. 3.Oxford eResearch CentreUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK

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