Concept and objectives
What happens to a society when new forms of communication appear? This question, which is fundamentally important and has far-reaching implications, is what the emergence of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) has brought about in the last decade. Indeed, ICT has radically and unforeseeably changed society as a whole. At first sight, these changes be attributed to the actions of individuals and the availability of new channels of communication that transform basic social processes: i) face-to-face encounters have become less critical than in the past, ii) the dynamics of building and strengthening relationships have evolved by taking advantage of ICT, and iii) new ICT-mediated groups and communities have emerged, by overcoming typical limitations such as distance or lack of a common platform. In addition, entirely new ways of collective human behaviour have appeared, such as the mass collaboration movement exemplified by Wikipedia.
However, the above description is critically incomplete, because it fails to recognize that individuals, society, and ICT are deeply intertwined in a dynamic feedback process, where individuals adopt new communication channels to form and join groups that change in identity and size, and restructure the whole of society. Simultaneously, ICT providers develop new channels of communication, some of which fail while some others become enormously popular. Indeed, unpredictability is a characteristic feature of these developments. Popular channels such as WWW and SMS were not originally designed for the purposes they serve today. Entirely new platforms for ICT-mediated social interactions, for example Facebook, have emerged "out of the blue". They have gained mass popularity in a very short time and transformed the social behaviour of individuals in unexpected ways. In our view, the fundamental challenge for future social ICT is to overcome the acute lack of understanding of the driving forces and mechanisms of this complex system of interactions between individuals, society, and ICT.
ICTeCollective (Harnessing ICT enabled collective social behaviour) aims to develop systematic means of exploring, understanding and modelling systems where ICT is entangled with social structures. In particular, we will focus on behavioural patterns, dynamics and driving mechanisms of social structures whose interactions are ICT-mediated, from the level of individuals to the level of groups and large-scale social systems. Our unique approach is based on combined expertise in complex systems and the social sciences. By contrast with the majority of complexity studies that start from extremely simplified assumptions concerning social dynamics and concentrate on diagnosing structural features of social systems, we emphasize that ICT networks are dynamic systems of interacting humans and groups, and fully utilize the theories and methods of the social sciences are to be in ICTeCollective.
Participant organisation name