Welcome to the VT Social Computing Research Group!

This site builds on research in social computing that has been supported by various grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF), including the Digital Government Program (2004-2008), and most recently, the Social-Computational Systems (SoCS) Program.

Our SoCS funded project (2011-2014) is entitled Participation on the Town Square in the Era of Web 2.0. It is led by our research group at the Center for Human Computer Interaction in the Department of Computer Science and the Department of Communication at Virginia Tech.
Principal Investigators: Andrea Kavanaugh, Manuel Pérez-Quiñones, Naren Ramakrishnan, John Tedesco
Outside Advisors: Prof. Jane Fountain (U Mass Amherst), Prof. Noshir Contractor (Northwestern), Prof. Keith Hampton (Rutgers), Mr. Philip Isenhour (Independent Consultant), Dr. Federico Casalegno (MIT).
Current Graduate Research Assistants and Affiliated Researchers: Ji Wang, Siddarth Krishnan, Kumbie Madondo, Ziqian Song, Junyang Chen, Asya Martirosyan and Affiliated Researcher, Byoung Joon Kim (PhD).
Previous Graduate Research Assistants and affiliated Undergraduate and Graduate Researchers: Ankit Ahuja, Samah Gad, Nathan Self, Vincent Ngo, Sameer Ahuja, Szu-Chia Lu, Vineeta Chaube, B. Joon Kim, Candida Tauro, Uma Murthy, Spencer Lee, Hyung Nam Kim, Jaideep Godara, Alain Fabian, Will Randolph, Matt Stover, Andrew Mike, Matthew Cooper, Anshul Midha, Salahaldin Hussein, and research associate, Dr. Than Than Zin.

Our community partners in the Virtual Town Square (VTS) project include: Town of Blacksburg, Dorsett Publications LTD, Blacksburg Electronic Village, Literacy Volunteers of the New River Valley, and Citizens First for Blacksburg.

Everyone is welcome to create an account, post content, follow friends on the Virtual Town Square -- local "news and views" aggregator site -- and suggest links to include, Twitterers to follow and local community groups with public Facebook pages. Please send us feedback for improvements.

Project Description

Collective decision-making based on opportunities to stay informed, reflect, debate, and consider counter evidence is the foundation of democratic life. These opportunities are undermined by a strange combination of diminishing (or extinct) local print media, i.e., local newspapers, and by its obverse, a plethora of information and communication opportunities that are scattered across numerous disparate websites and social software systems.

We seek to leverage social software together with network analysis and data mining to harness and model local online resources and social interactions to support and foster broader and more diverse civic participation in America’s communities. We envision a single unified and comprehensive aggregator site – what we are calling a Virtual Town Square (VTS) – with locally relevant online content and social interaction generated elsewhere by citizens and organizations, as well as interaction and discussion directly on the site. We are conducting computational analyses of data derived from VTS to identify and analyze implicit social and information networks, and to track and model the flow of information throughout the community.

Intellectual merit
Our research will contribute to knowledge about the role of social networks and software in civic engagement and the tools that support and foster such engagement. The final design of VTS will inform the design of future community computer networking, especially for collective long term planning and problem solving.

Broader impacts
We expect the use of VTS and related social software to lead to 1) increases in awareness, social interaction and participation among more diverse users due to opportunities afforded by VTS; 2) broader distribution (i.e., flow) of information throughout the community. This should occur because information gate keeping is minimized, while relevant content and social interaction are maximized through aggregation and discussion.

View the complete project summary

Project Activities


Local Blacksburg Community Groups Spreadsheet: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AsUfxkj42onwdHBvRkFnZXduQVFYZlZSUFlmV3JYTEE&hl=en_US#gid=0