22.11.15 - 27.11.15, Seminar 15482

Social Concepts in Self-organising Systems

The following text appeared on our web pages prior to the seminar, and was included as part of the invitation.


This seminar aims to bring together computer scientists from different fields as well as non-technical researchers including sociologists, psychologists, and legal scholars to discuss the opportunities, limi- tations, impacts, and dangers of self-organising socio-technical systems that mimic social systems, interact with existing ones, or fundamentally influence human social interactions.

Self-organising systems are an active area of research with a vibrant community. Many application areas have been tackled, starting from routing of vehicles in traffic or packets in computer networks to swarm robotics and ambient assisted living and reaching to adaptive production systems, energy management, and resilient hardware. Such systems are composed of agents that form a structure within themselves as a reaction to stimuli from within the system and from its environment. These agents do not only interact with each other but also with the environment, external systems, and humans in order to fulfil overall system goals. Self-organisation treats structure as a degree of freedom in the system and thus provides benefits with regard to adaptivity, robustness, and resilience. There are two important aspects that will be considered in the seminar: how social concepts can be used to make self-organising systems more robust, more efficient, and more beneficial, and how self-organising technical systems interact with and influence existing social systems. The first aspect addresses open and heterogeneous systems in which agents compete and follow different individual goals that may overlap or compete with the overall system goal. In this context, different social concepts - such as trust and reputation, norms, forgiveness, social capital, and justice - their interplay, and their applicability to self-organising systems will be discussed. The second aspect aims to address the increasing dependence of society on computation and on complex artificial systems, their influence on human-computer interaction, and on inter-human interaction.

So far, researchers working on the topics outlined above have been spread across several research communities that broadly correspond to topical areas. Multi-agent systems, self-organising and self- adaptive systems, normative systems, and trust and reputation have been discussed in separate com- munities and venues. Sociologists, psychologists, and legal scholars have rarely been part of the discussion. The seminar brings together researchers from all these fields and areas and provides a plat- form for exchange and dissemination that has not been available before. The researchers dealing with specific social concepts contribute by providing their insight and expertise. They benefit by learning about the specialities and requirements of self-organising technical systems as well as of other, related social constructs. The researchers focused on self-organising systems contribute their domain knowledge and the understanding of the necessities of self-organising systems. They benefit by gaining a deeper understanding of computational social concepts, their application, and their limitations. An interesting and important impact of the seminar are potential insights into the kind of novel information systems - that rely on social concepts - that may be developed and introduced in current socio-technical systems in order to improve their self-organisation and potential for effective action. As societies already possess and implicitly utilise these social concepts as the core of their organisation, introducing technical systems that feature compatible social concepts seems essential to their successful integration within society.

We aim to have an even share of computer scientists and scientists from other fields to allow discussions on conceptual issues rather than on technical issues. Our goal is an open exchange of ideas, the sharing of knowledge, and establishing a mutual understanding of the state of the art in the respective fields of the attendant researchers.