Social Computing (TSC)


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Special Issue on Negotiating Truth and Trust in Socio-Technical Systems

Topics and Themes

This special issue of ACM Transactions on Social Computing will explore interdisciplinary perspectives on negotiating truth and trust in socio-technical systems. Rather than seeking to define or promote one "truth," this issue focuses on how users identify and wrestle with competing notions of truth and trust in highly contested online information environments, full of risk and reward, and how designs of infrastructure and policy help or hinder these interactions. We are particularly interested in submissions which focus on real-world, ecologically validstudies and findings, including both new system designs and studies of existing systems. Salient topics include (but are not limited to):

  • Studies of novel platform designs, technologies, and tools that support open-source investigation, discovery, fact-checking, verification, and accountability in social media
  • Research into the role of social technologies in generating and disseminating mis/disinformation, rumors, and conspiracy theories; the conditions in which they thrive; and their consequences
  • Research emphasizing the "system": systems thinking, systemic bias, service design, aggregation mechanisms, and other perspectives on negotiating truth and trust beyond the individual
  • Studies of the tensions caused by, and collaborations across, the blurred boundaries of expertise and authority around information and knowledge (e.g., citizen science, citizen journalism, peer production)
  • Research on peer economy, crowdfunding, and online labor platforms that examines commercial manifestations of truth and trust and their impacts on employers, workers, and customers
  • Studies of efforts by constituents using social technologies and tools to assess the trustworthiness of government entities and political organizations, and vice versa
  • Research on how members of online communities debate, negotiate, and reconcile diverse understandings of truth and trust in specific contexts

Scope and Context

Social technologies play an increasingly central role in shaping the flow of information that people produce and consume in their personal and professional lives. These systems push boundaries around truth and trust, requiring users to negotiate new tensions and trade-offs between risk and benefit. For example:

  • Social media and news sites present users with micro-targeted news and information that can educate and inspire by raising awareness and elevating marginalized voices, but also confuse and control through misinformation and unknown biases.
  • Online collaboration platforms help individuals to organize for collective action to influence politics and social norms across a spectrum of issues, from philanthropic efforts to hate groups and extremism.
  • Peer economy platforms invite users to share their homes and vehicles with and trust unknown parties, gaining access to novel experiences and convenience but assuming risk to themselves and their property.
  • Peer production platforms have become authoritative sources for centralizing and organizing the world's knowledge, where pseudonymous editors' debates around the notability and trustworthiness of information shape public understanding.
  • Crowdsourced investigations leverage open source data and tools to solve crimes and hold those in power accountable, but also to facilitate online harassment and vigilantism.

The growing importance of these social technologies places new pressures on both designers and users of socio-technical systems where notions of truth and trust take center stage. Designers are challenged to consider broader systemic impacts and unintended consequences of their work, while users must simultaneously bring greater scrutiny and greater trust to their mediated social interactions. Further, researchers are just beginning to understand ways that designers and users negotiate these tensions in real-world settings.


This special issue arises from discussions held at the 2018 workshop on Designing Socio-Technical Systems of Truth organized by the Social Informatics group of Virginia Tech's Center for Human-Computer Interaction. Submissions from all researchers working in this area are highly encouraged.

Special Issue Editors

Kurt Luther - Department of Computer Science, Virginia Tech, Arlington, USA
Andrea Kavanaugh - Center for Human-Computer Interaction, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, USA
Jacob Thebault-Spieker - Department of Computer Science, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, USA
Judd Antin - Airbnb, San Francisco, USA 

Please contact for additional information.


We encourage submissions that utilize quantitative, qualitative and mixed research methods to approach the above challenges as contributions. Submissions must be original and should not have been published previously or be under consideration for publication while being evaluated for this special issue. All submissions should be prepared according to the TSC Author Guidelines at A high-resolution PDF of the paper should be uploaded to the submission site at, selecting "Special Issue on Negotiating Truth and Trust in Socio-Technical Systems" as the manuscript type.

Important Dates

Paper Submission: April 15, 2019
Notification of First Review: May 31, 2019
Submission of Revised Manuscript: July 31, 2019
Notification of Final Acceptance: August 31, 2019
Final source files due: September 15, 2019

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