In a time of growing political polarization and institutional distrust, social networks have the potential to remake the public sphere as a realm where institutions and individuals can come together to understand, debate and act on societal problems. To date, large-scale, decentralized digital networks have been better at disrupting old hierarchies than constructing new, sustainable systems to replace them. Existing tools and practices for understanding and harnessing this emerging media ecosystem are being outstripped by its rapid evolution and complexity.
The Laboratory for Social Machines is dedicated to:
- developing technologies that analyze social systems, map the public sphere of beliefs, opinions, and events to create information feedback loops that close the gap between public will (constitutions, laws, ordinances) and collective behavior (customs, habits)
- building tools for institutions and individuals to collaborate openly by debating and setting shared goals, then organizing themselves into sustainable networks capable of achieving social, cultural and political progress
- deploying social machines — networked human-machine collaboratives — alongside external partners in real-world situations with transparent, measurable objectives