IBM Gets Serious About Social Networking With New Research Center

IBM is applying a common research model, collaboration between academia and the private sector, to the social media tech space. The IBM Center for Social Software is the first instance of a tech company establishing a center around these very popular emerging — but still consumer-focused — technologies, according to Big Blue.

The Center’s mission is to develop ways to effectively apply next-generation Web 2.0 technologies within a corporate environment. Indeed, chief among its goals is designing IBM’s future Web 2.0 collaboration portfolio, which will consist of social discovery, social search, and new scalable architectures for social software, such as cloud computing.

Who’s Who

IBM will be working with academic, scientific and biotechnology communities across the globe, sharing its research with local and global institutions. Its Cambridge, Mass., location will make it easy to tap talent at many nearby institutions, Chris Lamb, product manager for IBM’s social network offerings, told TechNewsWorld.

At the same time, researchers from New York; San Jose; Haifa, Israel; Tokyo and Beijing can join the Cambridge team in a special visiting scientist program, working at the Center on specific projects.

IBM will not be the only private sector partner in this endeavor. Dow Jones and the Healthcare business of Thomson Reuters have signed on to participate in the Center’s corporate residency program.

“Our approach will be to work with the broader community — it will be a give-and-take type of relationship,” Lamb said.

Any intellectual property developed through the initiative would belong to the participants in question.

Social Media Research

Essentially, the Center will be an incubator for the research, development and testing of social software. Identifying new business models, investigating next-generation Web 2.0 applications, and studying how and why viral communities are formed will be among the areas of study.

“It is a broad scope of research we will be tackling,” Lamb noted. “So far, there have been a lot of advances in social software, but we feel we have just tapped the surface.”

Examples include micro-blogging, now all the rage in social networking, according to Lamb. “There are also concerns about trust that we want to further explore — how do you know who to trust within a network for the best answer, for instance.”

Another target area will be visualization — specifically, how to use visualization techniques to leverage data value, he said.

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