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Applying mechanical philosophy to web science: The case of social machines

Applying mechanical philosophy to web science: The case of social machines
Applying mechanical philosophy to web science: The case of social machines
Social machines are a prominent focus of attention for those who work in the field of Web and Internet science. Although a number of online systems have been described as social machines (examples include the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia, Reddit, and Galaxy Zoo), there is, as yet, little consensus as to the precise meaning of the term "social machine." This presents a problem for the scientific study of social machines, especially when it comes to the provision of a theoretical framework that directs, informs, and explicates the scientific and engineering activities of the social machine community. The present paper outlines an approach to understanding social machines that draws on recent work in the philosophy of science, especially work in so-called mechanical philosophy. This is what might be called a mechanistic view of social machines. According to this view, social machines are systems whose phenomena (i.e., events, states, and processes) are explained via an appeal to (online) socio-technical mechanisms. We show how this account is able to accommodate a number of existing attempts to define the social machine concept, thereby yielding an important opportunity for theoretical integration.
Internet, Mechanism, Mechanistic Explanation, Philosophy of Web Science, Social Machine, Socio-Technical System, Web Science
1879-4912
1-29
Smart, Paul
cd8a3dbf-d963-4009-80fb-76ecc93579df
O'hara, Kieron
0a64a4b1-efb5-45d1-a4c2-77783f18f0c4
Hall, Wendy
11f7f8db-854c-4481-b1ae-721a51d8790c
Smart, Paul
cd8a3dbf-d963-4009-80fb-76ecc93579df
O'hara, Kieron
0a64a4b1-efb5-45d1-a4c2-77783f18f0c4
Hall, Wendy
11f7f8db-854c-4481-b1ae-721a51d8790c

Smart, Paul, O'hara, Kieron and Hall, Wendy (2021) Applying mechanical philosophy to web science: The case of social machines. European Journal for Philosophy of Science, 11 (3), 1-29, [72]. (doi:10.1007/s13194-021-00388-z).

Record type: Article

Abstract

Social machines are a prominent focus of attention for those who work in the field of Web and Internet science. Although a number of online systems have been described as social machines (examples include the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia, Reddit, and Galaxy Zoo), there is, as yet, little consensus as to the precise meaning of the term "social machine." This presents a problem for the scientific study of social machines, especially when it comes to the provision of a theoretical framework that directs, informs, and explicates the scientific and engineering activities of the social machine community. The present paper outlines an approach to understanding social machines that draws on recent work in the philosophy of science, especially work in so-called mechanical philosophy. This is what might be called a mechanistic view of social machines. According to this view, social machines are systems whose phenomena (i.e., events, states, and processes) are explained via an appeal to (online) socio-technical mechanisms. We show how this account is able to accommodate a number of existing attempts to define the social machine concept, thereby yielding an important opportunity for theoretical integration.

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Published date: 19 July 2021
Keywords: Internet, Mechanism, Mechanistic Explanation, Philosophy of Web Science, Social Machine, Socio-Technical System, Web Science

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 450506
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/450506
ISSN: 1879-4912
PURE UUID: c24d83bd-57e8-4b63-992e-b1970dcbf3d1
ORCID for Paul Smart: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0001-9989-5307
ORCID for Kieron O'hara: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-9051-4456
ORCID for Wendy Hall: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0003-4327-7811

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Date deposited: 30 Jul 2021 16:32
Last modified: 15 Sep 2021 01:47

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