Paul Smart
University of Southampton
Social machines are a prominent focus of attention for those who work in the field of Web and Internet science. Although a number of online systems have been described as social machines, there is, as yet, little consensus as to the precise meaning of the term “social machine.” This presents a problem for the scientific study of social machines, especially when it comes to the provision of a theoretical framework that directs, informs, and explicates the scientific and engineering activities of the social machine community. The present paper outlines an approach to understanding social machines that draws on recent work in the philosophy of science, especially work in so-called mechanical philosophy. This is what might be called a mechanistic view of social machines. According to this view, social machines are systems whose phenomena are explained via an appeal to socio-technical mechanisms. We show how this account is able to accommodate a number of existing attempts to define the social machine concept, thereby yielding an important opportunity for theoretical integration.
Keywords Social Machine  Mechanism  Socio-Technical System  Mechanistic Explanation  Internet  Web Science
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1007/s13194-021-00388-z
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Translate to english
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

 PhilArchive page | Other versions
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Thinking About Mechanisms.Peter Machamer, Lindley Darden & Carl F. Craver - 2000 - Philosophy of Science 67 (1):1-25.
The New Mechanical Philosophy.Stuart Glennan - 2017 - Oxford University Press.

View all 35 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Where the Smart Things Are: Social Machines and the Internet of Things.Paul Smart, Aastha Madaan & Wendy Hall - 2019 - Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 18 (3):551-575.
Knowledge Machines.Paul Smart - 2018 - The Knowledge Engineering Review 33 (e11):1–26.
Social Machines: A Philosophical Engineering.Spyridon Palermos - 2017 - Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 16 (5):953-978.
Fundamental Issues in Social Robotics.Brian R. Duffy - 2006 - International Review of Information Ethics 6 (12):2006.
Nanomachine.Xavier Guchet - 2007 - Techne 11 (1):71-89.
Nanomachine.Bernadette Bensuade-Vincent & Xavier Guchet - 2007 - Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology 11 (1):71-89.
Nanomachine: One Word For Three Different Paradigms.Bernadette Bensuade-Vincent & Xavier Guchet - 2007 - Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology 11 (1):71-89.
The Social Scaffolding of Machine Intelligence.Paul Smart - 2017 - International Journal on Advances in Intelligent Systems 10 (3&4):261–279.
Zur Infinitisierung der Automaten: Descartes Und Leibniz.Daniel Schulthess - 1997 - In J. Soering & R. Sorgg (eds.), Die Androiden: Zur Poetologie der Automaten. Francfort: P. Lang. pp. p.85-98..


Added to PP index

Total views
156 ( #75,079 of 2,506,527 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
29 ( #31,103 of 2,506,527 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes