Research

Research Themes of the EIPCM and their Application Areas

Trans-disciplinary | User-centered | Practice-driven research

Real-world problems defy the boundaries of individual scientific disciplines. Developing innovative solutions which can be effectively turned into practice often requires bringing together knowledge and experts from different domains and bridging the gaps between them. Rather than framing the problem in terms of the knowledge known to a particular discipline, the challenge lies in framing existing knowledge from different disciplines in ways that make it relevant to the problem at hand. This is the essence of trans-disciplinary collaboration.

We turn these principles into practice by structuring our research around broader research themes in which different application areas are brought together in creating novel solutions to real-world challenges.

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Research Themes

Participatory Systems
Participatory media and Web2.0 technologies have profoundly changed the way how people, institutions and companies interact with each other. We investigate how networked creation and management of knowledge, content, products and services – in value webs connecting end-users with professionals and companies – can be effectively designed for and managed. What happens when the power of participatory platforms is combined with next-generation media systems, allowing seamless access to information, content and services across different channels and devices?

This increasingly requires technological support for semantically structuring and visualizing knowledge, processes and communication flows. Different stakeholders involve different goals, interests, knowledge and perspectives on the problem at hand. Effectively supporting communication and cooperation in such settings is no trivial task. Some reseach challenges include: How can the different perspectives and knowledge created, exchanged and negotiated in networked interactions be made visible and brought to use, for different actors involved? What principles underly successful participatory platforms which connect processes in the online setting and the physical world?

While some of these questions have been intensively researched in the last years, there is a growing abyss between academic research and real-world practice. In this case, reality is faster than science. By trying out novel ideas in real-world environments accompanied by scientific inquiry, we seek to bridge this gap.

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Knowledge Visualization
Effectively managing networked interaction and communication with their customers and stakeholders has become critical success factor for both companies and public institutions. But how can platforms for participation be successfully designed and implemented in practice? How can communication and cooperation in networks be effectively managed and designed for?

This increasingly requires technological support for semantically structuring and visualizing knowledge, processes and communication flows. Different stakeholders involve different goals, interests, knowledge and perspectives on the problem at hand. Effectively supporting communication and cooperation in such settings is no trivial task. Some reseach challenges include: How can the different perspectives and knowledge created, exchanged and negotiated in networked interactions be made visible and brought to use, for different actors involved? What principles underly successful participatory platforms which connect processes in the online setting and the physical world?

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Social Computing
Social computing is concerned with the design, development and use of information and communication technologies embedded in social contexts. It encompasses systems and applications supporting the creation, gathering, sharing, use and analysis of information in different kinds of distributed social settings. This can include small-scale distributed teams or informal groups as well as large-scale online communities or social networks. Social computing tools and techniques for collective creation, sharing and processing of information and knowledge range from blogs, wikis and instant messaging to online social networks, collaborative filtering or crowdsourcing. Our research in this area focuses on the design, analysis and real-world piloting of novel applications of social computing and collective intelligence (e.g. crowdsourcing, open innovation and human computation) in organizations, business and society.  This work is embedded in the broader area of human-centered computing. One particular focus involves the integration of methods from collaborative systems (cscw), knowledge visualization and human-computer interaction to design systems that combine human and machine intelligence in novel ways that can support new forms of social innovation and value creation (e.g. in health and medicine, renewable energies, multimedia search, participatory citizen platforms).
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Application Areas

Social Innovation
How will we work, live and be governed? What and how will we buy, consume and exchange? What role should institutions play when it is not costly but ubiquitous to transact? Innovation is often associated with the development of new technologies, products and services or technological processes. But the development of new forms of social, cultural and economic interaction and organization (e.g. social enterprises, open source, social commerce) also represents an important form of innovation that greatly influences our lives. Digital social innovations often develop through creative use of new technologies in an interplay between technological possibilities and organizational or socio-economic interactions. They transcend boundaries: between disciplines, between technology and society, between public administration and business.
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eDemocracy
The field of eDemocracy builds upon new information technologies to explore new ways of citizen participation in democratic processes. This ranges from different kinds of online access and delivery of of public services to new forms of civic engagement and civic education. It comprises different forms of digital support of traditional as well as new forms of politics: from decision-making in political parties to election campaigns, from lobbying to public participation, from parliamentary work to civic initiatives.

eDemocracy distributes control and decision-making power through fostering horizontal and multi-directional connections between citizens, the organized civil society and the government. This carries both chances and challenges in rethinking existing models of political participation which cannot be addressed from a purely technology-driven perspective. eDemocracy includes the social, economic and cultural conditions that are needed to enable sustainable and responsible practices of democratic participation. With the development of novel kinds of participatory systems integrating scientific research with application in real-world practice we contribute to exploring new forms of this important and exciting area of digital social innovation.

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Open Innovation
The pervasive availability of easy-to-use Internet tools and services for information sharing, interaction and communication (wikis, blogs, instant messaging, social networks) has profoundly transformed the role of end-users from passive consumers to active co-creators of content, products and services in professional value networks. Companies are increasingly devising cooperative business models in which end-users are empowered to active co-creators of value (e.g. manufacturing, travel, health, finance). The term open innovation has been used to describe a range of such cooperative arrangements: from new forms of user participation in the consumption process, to personalized interaction to active co-creation of new products and services e.g. through online feedback forums, design contests or user-innovation toolkits. Such openness increases diversity and creativity and can empower the users to become active co-designers in the previuosly closed business processes. If considered in its full consequences this can create opportunities not only for companies but also for citizens to become equal partners in socially-aware co-creation processes influencing business behaviour and strategies. In our research we focus on opportunities of designing such collaborative open innovation systems that integrate users as active co-creators of value in open value networks.
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Digital Humanities
State-of-the-art computational methods open up new research opportunities for disciplines beyond computer science. On the intersection of ICT, human and social sciences, the novel, interdisciplinary field of Digital Humanities is currently emerging. Its objective is to analyze and implement digital methods and tools to support research in the humanities, which often deals with large sets of data as well as archive collections, and where traditional manual processing approaches often prove cumbersome and time-consuming. In response, Digital Humanities include a range of areas from digitalization and computational methods for semantic analysis of document repositories to the applications of social network analysis, visualization and crowdsourcing for building systems and interfaces enabling new kinds of historical knowledge discovery.

As a powerful means to enhance rather than replace traditional research, humanities professionals can apply the new digital methods to deal with the tedious work focusing on the part of their research that is most likely to result in new findings, and to make use of technologies that may enable the discovery of new insights and patterns that were almost impossible to identify before.

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