• Margaret Tan, Singapore Internet Research Center, Nanyang University of Technology, Singapore
• Azam Esfijani, Curtin University, Australia
The internet, together with other advances in ICT such as the increased take-up of smart mobile devices, is enabling a new era of community engagement. In science, the application of volunteer computing is providing examples of engagement in which members of the public can contribute to scientific advances of social importance. Examples include modelling climate change (ClimatePrediction.net), developing drugs for AIDS (FightAids@home), or simulating the spread of malaria (MalariaControl.net). The participatory ecosystem is becoming still wider with projects such as GalaxyZoo, in which volunteers contribute their "thinking" rather than their computers, and global initiatives to broaden take-up such as Africa@home and Asia@home.
On the social side, we are seeing substantial evidence of the role that digital technologies, especially the "Social Web" such as blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and video sharing sites, can play in community activism. The Social Web is in some quarters becoming the mainstream method for connecting people, sharing information, and influencing developments, particularly in areas where traditional modes of communication operate less effectively. This is reflected in a number of recent geopolitical events that have been referred to as "Twitter Revolutions", and these technologies have played an undeniable role in such events as the “Arab Spring” and humanitarian crises such as the 2010 Haiti earthquake. The use of these technologies has however led to debates concerning the extent to which such digital technologies genuinely promote more democratic community action, and the extent to which they can be exploited by the powerful to reinforce their positions.
We are looking for papers that address medium-scale/large-scale and medium-term/long-term challenges for social involvement/engagement, and indicate/demonstrate potential solutions.