A Social Machine for Transdisciplinary Research

David G Lebow
Informing Science: The International Journal of an Emerging Transdiscipline  •  Volume 21  •  2018  •  pp. 201-217

This paper introduces a Social Machine for collaborative sensemaking that the developers have configured to the requirements and challenges of transdisciplinary literature reviews.

Social Machines represent a promising model for unifying machines and social processes for a wide range of purposes. A development team led by the author is creating a Social Machine for activities that require users to combine pieces of information from multiple online sources and file types for various purposes.

The development team has applied emergent design processes, usability testing, and formative evaluation in the execution of the product road map.

A major challenge of the digital information age is how to tap into large volumes of online information and the collective intelligence of diverse groups to generate new knowledge, solve difficult problems, and drive innovation. A Transdisciplinary Social Machine (TDSM) enables new forms of interactions between humans, machines, and online content that have the potential to (a) improve outcomes of sensemaking activities that involve large collections of online documents and diverse groups and (b) make machines more capable of assisting humans in their sensemaking efforts.

Preliminary findings suggest that TDSM promotes learning and the generation of new knowledge.

TDSM has the potential to improve outcomes of literature reviews and similar activities that require distilling information from diverse online sources.

TDSM is an instrument for investigating sensemaking, an environment for studying various forms of human and machine interactions, and a subject for further evaluation.

In complex areas such as sustainability and healthcare research, TDSM has the potential to make decision-making more transparent and evidence-based, facilitate the production of new knowledge, and promote innovation. In education, TDSM has the potential to prepare students for the 21st century information economy.

Research is required to measure the effects of TDSM on cross-disciplinary communication, human and machine learning, and the outcomes of transdisciplinary research projects. The developers are planning a multiple case study using design-based research methodology to investigate these topics.

cognitive bias, epistemological beliefs, multiple texts, sensemaking, Social Ma-chines, transdisciplinarity, transdisciplinary research
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