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Social Computing is a new field of HCI that focuses on the design, evaluation, maintenance and social interaction via digital technology. Its roots lie in computer science, information systems, technology and psychology just like HCI. In addition social computing draws heavily on sociology, social psychology, anthropology, communication, education, economics, marketing and, of course, HCI.

Online Communities consist of people who come together online and interact socially to achieve some kind of goal. HCIL Professor Jenny Preece emphasizes that a community is not the same as the software platform that supports it - an obvious fact for some, but unfortunately not everyone. Many e-commerce sites fail because developers think that by adding community software they are creating a community. Software alone is not enough, nor is usability; attention must be paid to supporting social interaction (i.e., sociability) through a combination of software design and social support.

Research at the HCIL is creatively exploring several forms of both Social Computing and Online Communities, including visualization of email correspondence, information retrieval from blogs, online voting and online communities.

Current Projects

Community Analysis and Visualization Screenshot

Community Analysis and Visualization
Nation of Neighbors is Neighborhood Watch for the 21st century. It facilitates real-time collaboration within communities and between community members and Law Enforcement. Their mission is to enable Citizens and Law Enforcement to work together to fight and deter crime and improve our communities.

Past Projects

Baltimore Learning Community Screenshot

Baltimore Learning Community
An electronic learning community that provides teachers with multimedia resources that are linked to outcome-oriented curriculum guidelines.

EmailViz: Email Archive Visualization Screenshot

EmailViz: Email Archive Visualization
A range of projects focused on visualizing archived email of individuals, and the organizational and social spaces to which they belong.

ICDL Communities Screenshot

ICDL Communities
ICDL Communities will provide a supportive, safe environment for children who speak different languages and are from different cultures to come together using activities related to books in the ICDL as common ground.

Mobile Collaboration for Young Children Screenshot

Mobile Collaboration for Young Children
Mobile devices can support the learning experience as children create narratives in various contexts. Mobile device limitations can be overcome by bringing people and devices together. In addition, social interaction and collaboration are essential to the emotional and cognitive development of young children.

Preserving Virtual Worlds
Interactive media are highly complex and at high risk for loss as technologies rapidly become obsolete. The Preserving Virtual Worlds project will explore methods for preserving digital games and interactive fiction. Major activities will include developing basic standards for metadata and content representation and conducting a series of archiving case studies for early video games, electronic literature and Second Life, an interactive multiplayer game.

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