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Bluesky Innovation Competition

Social Computing in 2020

The Bluesky Innovation Competition on “Social Computing in 2020” seeks to promote new research directions for social-computing technologies of the future. Organized by the University of California’s Transliteracies Project and UC Santa Barbara’s Social Computing Group, this competition is open to students worldwide. We encourage participants to think broadly and freely about how society and technology will interact 10 to 20 years from now — far enough in the future to stretch our imagination of technology, yet near enough to be plausible.

Eligible: Undergraduate and graduate students

Deadline: January 30, 2009

First prize: $3000 USD. Second prize: $1000. Third prize: $500.


What is social computing?

The social potential of computer networks has come to the fore through the rapid development of such network applications as wikis, blogs, social networking sites, social bookmarking sites, and online collaborative editing suites that encourage people to engage in collective resource-building, action, and work.

But most of the focus in industry and the academy has been on discrete technologies, applications, protocols, and interfaces (e.g., Facebook, Wikipedia, Flickr, blogs, etc.). When the overall relations between particular technologies and particular social phenomena are addressed at all, they have usually been generalized under such catch-all concepts as “Web 2.0” or “the wisdom of crowds.”

In fact, a whole new field of integrated, interdisciplinary research in digital media has emerged that requires innovative thinking across the disciplines of engineering, computer science, social science, the humanities, and the arts. This new field is social computing.

Definition: Social computing is the use of technology in networked communication systems by communities of people for one or more goals.

— From the working papers of the UCSB Social Computing Group & UC Transliteracies Project.

Submission Guidelines

Submissions should address some specific or general aspect of how people or society will interact with future social-computing technology. The technological component — hardware, software, or some combination — should be innovative but possible within a 10- to 20-year timeline. Far-reaching science fiction is discouraged, as are submissions of technologies that are simply better versions of what already exists (neither is likely to advance discrete, new research directions).

Just as important as technological vision is the imagination of plausible social uses (local or global, community-based or institutional, aesthetic or political, etc.). How will new technology affect the society or community that uses it? How will a society or community in turn affect the development of technology? The best submission will be one that makes a case for how technology and society modify each other’s development.

This is primarily a conceptual competition. Submissions do not need to be worked up to the level of prototype applications, algorithm descriptions, empirical social-science data, etc. The motto of the competition is: be visionary, but be “real.” How will our lives be changed in the next 10 to 20 years through social computing?


Individual or team submissions may be made by undergraduate and graduate students currently enrolled in a college or university. International submissions are welcome (submissions must be in English; the award of prizes is subject to restrictions of U.S. law pertaining to some foreign nations). Students in any discipline are encouraged to apply — for example, students in the natural sciences, engineering, computer science, the social sciences, the humanities, and the arts.

Format of Submissions

Submissions must include:

A. Submission Form: download .doc file.

B. Biography: a brief biography, c.v., or résumé, including contact information (postal address and email address). No anonymous submissions will be accepted.

C. Description of Idea: 1,500 words maximum; in English. A good description is one that sketches in a well-organized way the main idea behind the technology and social use being imagined and also provides some context (for example, why the suggested technology and social use will be important in 2020 in relation to broader technological or social developments). A description may include no more than one or two illustrations for clarity (other materials may be included in Part D of the submission; see below).

D. Imaginative Realization, Embodiment, or Illustration of the Idea: This part of a submission can take many possible forms. Examples (which can be combined) include:

  • An “application sketch” of technology (hypothetical screenshots or design slides of plausible software or devices that need not be backed up by a prototype or demo).
  • A fictional story, script, podcast, or video dramatizing how people will be using social-computing technologies in 2020.
  • An essay or analytical discussion of social computing in 2020.
  • A fictional business plan for a company with a new social-computing technology in 2020.
  • A hypothetical government white paper or legislative study intended to set policy guidelines for social computing in 2020.
  • An imaginary museum exhibition of contemporary art making use of social computing in 2020.

Mechanics of Submission

All submissions must be received by January 30, 2009. Parts A, B, and C must be sent by email in any common document format (e.g., plain-text, .doc, .pdf, .html) to . (Hard-copy submissions will not be accepted unless there is a specific reason.) Where possible, Part D should also be sent as described above. Any materials in Part D that cannot practically be sent by email (e.g., large files, video, programs, etc.) may be put online on a Web or FTP site, posted with password protection to one of the free, Web-based file-transfer services (e.g., SendThisFile), etc. (CD and DVD submissions are discouraged except in special circumstances because of the difficulty of sharing such materials among multiple judges. If any physical media is sent, the competition organizers are under no obligation to return such materials.) Questions about sending materials in Part D may be addressed to .

Criteria for Evaluation

Submissions will be judged on the grounds of creativity, understanding of technology and society, explanatory clarity and organization in Part C, and quality of the materials in Part D. Criteria for judging do not include marketability vs. non-marketability or general-audience vs. specific-audience relevance. For example, an excellent, brilliantly realized imagination of future social-computing technology for a subset of the population (e.g., children aged 10 to 13, rural populations in industrializing nations, the disabled, research scientists, the medical profession, etc.) that has the potential to be a paradigm for how other technologies might be developed for other specific groups would be a competitive submission.

Judging and Announcement

Judging will take place in February 2009 and winners announced by April 2009.

Intellectual Property Policy

Participants in the competition warrant that their ideas are their own. Where ideas include component-ideas or materials by others, applicants warrant that any intellectual property owned by others and used in their submissions is approved for use and appropriately attributed.

The copyright or patent for any material submitted for the competition remains with the original owner.

The University of California Transliteracies Project and UC Santa Barbara Social Computing Group have the non-exclusive right to publish online or in any other medium Part C of a winning submission (the description of the idea). Materials from Part D of a winning submission may be put online or published only with the permission of the competition participant.

Privacy Statement

Personal information will be collected as defined by the submission process. This information is used to confirm eligibility, evaluate applications, and administer the awards. This information will be disclosed to the competition judges and administrators for purposes of evaluation and selection. Email addresses and postal addresses will not be made public or sold, rented, or provided to third parties.

The terms of the competition are that Part C of a winning submission (description of the idea) may be made public along with the name, nationality, college or university, educational level (graduate or undergraduate), and degree program of the participant(s). Award winners will need to furnish the name of a college or university faculty member or administrator who can verify the winners’ educational status, but these names will not be made public. Applicants who do not receive awards will not be named or otherwise identified.

(Personal information received in connection with the competition may be released as required by subpoena, law or a court of competent jurisdiction. Personal information may also be disclosed in the event that an individual’s safety or security is at risk or in order to protect the integrity, safety and security of the competition’s website.)

Competition Organizers

UCSB Social Computing Group faculty:

Assistance from the UCSB Graduate Student Social Computing “Bluesky” Group.