Facebook and Wikipedia are just the beginning. The real power of social networks will be showcased by projects that unite far-flung participants to help track disease outbreaks, revolutionize neighborhood-watch programs, encourage energy conservation, and serve other civic and community goals, according to a group of researchers calling for greater government and university investment in social networking.
More than a dozen researchers met at the University of Maryland at College Park last week to draft a white paper calling for the creation of “a National Initiative for Social Participation.” They argue that computer-science programs at universities and federal agencies need to move faster to support research into social-networking technology, which they see as the next frontier of innovation.
Not everyone in higher education sees Wikipedia as a model of quality, of course. Many professors have criticized the online encyclopedia, which anyone can change and add to, as being too prone to errors and vandalism. The idea of using a “crowdsourcing” approach to share health information or crime reports is likely to run into plenty of controversy. (See the full article in today’s online edition of The Chronicle.)
Should researchers be doing more work on social networking? —Jeffrey R. Young