Systems, Man & Cybernetics - April 2015 - 16

e.g., in videos or other media. This is why social interacelders abandoning a favorite town square, can help predict
tions are possible through the phone, when people hear
future high crime rates [39]. In addition, it was found that
others only through the speakers, even if unexpected
changes in people's personal associations can accurately
effects are still possible (see the "Less Might Be More"
predict changes in their voting behavior [40]. But what is
section). However, the results illustrated in this article go
perhaps just as remarkable is that these studies take only
one step further and show that digital traces can work as
days from conception to launch, and their cost can be
social signals even when they do not correspond to any of
limited to the cost of encouraging people to download the
the cues that people display in colocated interactions. This
appropriate mobile phone app.
is the case of pictures that convey personality impressions
An example of such a living lab is the open data
(see the "Pictures as Social Signals" section) or of the digicity launched last year with the city of Trento, Italy,
tal breadcrumbs that people leak in everyday life (see the
by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Human
"Social Physics" section).
Dynamics Lab along with Telecom Italia, Telefonica, the
Perhaps it is not a surprise that people interpret most
research university Fondazione Bruno Kessler, the Instiof the signals they receive as social [41]. However, the way
tute for Data Driven Design, and local companies. This
this happens in today's technological landscape is still
living lab has the approval and informed consent of all
largely unexplored. This appears to be a likely new frontier
of its participants, and they know that they are part of a
for SSP, the natural continuation
large experiment whose goal is to
of the extensive work done in the
better understand human behavlast decade to model, analyze, and
ior and to use that knowledge to
synthesize social signals in face-toinvent a better way of living. More
There is no social
face settings.
detail on these living labs can be
interaction without
found at http://realitycommons.
About the Authors
media.mit.edu and http://www.
social signals, i.e.,
Alessandro Vinciarelli (Alessanmobileterritoriallab.eu/.
without observable
dro.Vinciarelli@glasgow.ac.uk) is an
cues allowing people
associate professor at the University
Conclusions
of Glasgow, United Kingdom, where
The core idea of SSP is that social
to understand and
he is with the School of Computing
signals are the physical, machinereasonably predict
Science and the Institute of Neurodetectable evidence of social and
science and Psychology. He has
psychological phenomena that
the behavior of others.
experience as a principal investigamediate the interactions of diftor (PI) or co-PI of more than ten
ferent people. The technological
national and international projects,
implication of such a statement is
including the European Network of Excellence on Social
that social signals can be, on the one hand, automatiSignal Processing (www.sspnet.eu). He has published over
cally detected and interpreted to understand what goes on
100 technical works and is the cofounder of Klewel (www.
between interacting people and, on the other hand, autoklewel.com), a knowledge-management company recogmatically generated to build machines that interact with
nized with national and international awards.
people like people do. In the long term, this is expected
Alex "Sandy" Pentland (pentland@mit.edu) helped
to bring socially intelligent machines, i.e., machines that
create and direct the Massachusetts Institute of Technolosense and understand social interactions in the same way
gy's Media Lab, the Media Lab Asia, and the Center for
as people do in everyday life while seamlessly interacting
Future Health. He chairs the World Economic Forum's
with their users.
Global Agenda Council on Data-Driven Development and is
This article has shown that the same principle applies
a member of the advisory boards for Google, Nissan, Telenot only to face-to-face interactions, for which it has helped
fonica, the United Nations secretary general, Monument
to develop a large number of socially intelligent technoloCapital, and the Minerva Schools. In 2012, Forbes named
gies [5], [6], but also to new human-human communication
him one of the seven most powerful data scientists in the
settings resulting from the widespread diffusion of technolworld, along with Google's founders and the chief technoloogies like mobile phones and social networking platforms.
gy officer of the United States. He also won the McKinsey
The main difference is that the available social signals can
Award from Harvard Business Review in 2013 and the
be limited (like in the case of the phones) or fully alternaBrandeis Award for work in privacy in 2015. He is among
tive (like in the case of social networking platforms) with
the most-cited computational scientists in the world and a
respect to those available in face-to-face social exchanges
pioneer in computational social science, organizational
(see Figure 1).
engineering, wearable computing, and image understandThe effect, known as the media equation [8], shows
ing. His most recent book is Social Physics, published by
that people are sensitive to social signals not only when
Penguin Press.
they meet others in person but also when they see them,
16

IEEE Systems, Man, & Cybernetics Magazine A pr il 2015 	


http://realitycommons http://media.mit.edu http://www http://www.mobileterritoriallab.eu/ http://www.sspnet.eu http://www.klewel.com

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Systems, Man & Cybernetics - April 2015

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Systems, Man & Cybernetics - April 2015 - Cover3
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