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The explosion of research around social networks and social media highlights the ways that our actions and opinions—what we know and believe, how we behave and make decisions—are embedded in and shaped by webs of social relationships. Small individual actions that flow within networks can lead to broad systemic dynamics that fundamentally impact how societies function economically, socially, and culturally.

Social technology provides a set of affordances that makes it easier for individuals to manage this web of relationships and the information that flows through it, but designers can configure and make use of the same affordances to influence user behavior. As much of the connected world races to adopt social technology, we have a responsibility both to understand its impacts and to develop ethical guidelines for its use, as its impacts could be profound.

This workshop will engage the CSCW community in discussion about how social technology is, could be, and should (or shouldn’t!) be used to influence behavior. We invite practitioners and researchers across disciplines to present and discuss techniques that are or might be used, the impacts these techniques may have at the individual and aggregate levels, and our ethical responsibilities in their application.

This workshop is part of CSCW.

Call for Papers

We seek contributions that address one of more of the following aspects of influence in social technology:

  • Tools & Techniques – How might tools and techniques be deployed to influence the spread of particular behaviors, information, or beliefs within social technology platforms? Contributions might cover existing or envisioned techniques, including (but not limited to): selective information targeting, the setting of defaults, filtering mechanisms,recommendation algorithms, saliency of features, motivational messaging, and attempts to reconfigure social networks.
  • Impacts & Analysis – What are the potential impacts of these techniques, both at the individual level and also within the broader ecology of multiple sociotechnical systems and at time scales that might reveal extended system dynamics? This broader perspective recognizes that neither individual behavior nor social technology exists in a vacuum, and that individual behavior change in one system may interact in complex ways with influences in other systems. We welcome new methods of study that can be used to measure behavior change and the influence of design elements across multiple levels of sociotechnical systems.
  • Ethics & Power – If a technology is designed to alter the behavior of its users, how and why are values and strategic choices manifested in system design, and how are such decisions made? How can we conceptualize control and persuasion when they are embedded in sociotechnical systems? Can we articulate ethical guidelines regarding if, when, and how social technologies should manipulate users toward some beneficial end? Suggested topics include but are not limited to: the roles of transparency, openness, accountability, and choice in system design; what it might mean for a technology to be “pro-social”; what participatory or user-centered design might look like in this context.

Our hope is to be cross-disciplinary and invite the perspectives of both researchers and practitioners, but the emphasis of the workshop is on connections between levels of analysis.  So, for example, a submission that describes a novel technology for recommending friends would be appropriate, but a similar submission that also discusses the implications of widespread use would be preferred.

Submission Types

We welcome both short (1-4 pages) and long (8-10 pages) papers.  21 short papers will be selected, and 9 long papers.  Authors of long papers will be given time to present their work.  Submissions should be of high quality but may present early stage research.

Submissions will be reviewed by the co-organizers, and selected on the basis of quality and in order to maximize the diversity of topics.

All papers should use the HCI Archive Format, though it is not necessary to use the ACM Classification System. Please upload submissions in PDF format to by 11:59PM PST, Dec. 1 2011.


  • Josh Introne – Center for Collective Intelligence, MIT
  • Karen Levy – Department of Sociology, Princeton University
  • Sean Munson – School of Information, University of Michigan
  • Sean Goggins – The iSchool, Drexel University
  • Rick Wash – Telecommunications, Information Studies, and Media, Michigan Univerisity
  • Cecilia Aragon – Human Centered Design & Engineering, University of Washington

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