Following the success of SOCM2013 in Rio de Janeiro, the SOCIAM, the Social Machines Project had its first hands-on design workshop at FutureEverything 2014 in Manchester, England. The goal was to get an interdisciplinary audience to try their hands at designing completely new social machines from scratch, within the extremely short time constraints of a 20 minute workshop, to see whether this was possible and the kinds of concepts people might come up with.
In preparation for this event, we created a graphical vocabulary for expressing the information and interaction flow of social machines. To do this, I used Feynman Diagrams as inspiration; this visual lexicon comprised of simple line and arrow diagrams that anyone could easily and quickly draw, which captured the key essences of the interactions and decay processes of various particles due to forces governed by quantum physics. Feynman diagrams have been seen as thoroughly revolutionary in their ability to distill what was previously expressed a sets of complex equations into concise visual forms that let physicists more easily communicate, compare, and contemplate these processes than with their original mathematical forms.
Our version of Feynman Diagrams, Sociagrams, sought to similarly capture the essence of how major social machines worked, from the mundane (simple messaging services) to the complex (online auctions, mechanical turk/crowdsourcing platforms, bitcoin) at an appropriate level of detail to keep them easy to draw, simple to communicate and easy to compare. This necessitated omitting most details about how these machines were implemented, all interface concerns, and the exact vocabulary used by each to express individual concepts.
Examples of the Sociagrams are visible below. This “cheat sheet” was created for participants.