Duration: June 2006 - August 2009
A new paradigm is quickly gaining impact in large-scale information systems: Folksonomies. In applications like Flickr, Connotea, Citeulike, Delicious, etc. people no longer make a passive use of online resources - they take on an active role and enrich resources with semantically meaningful information. Such information consists of terminology (or "tags") freely associated by each users to resources and is shared with users of the online community. Despite its intrinsic anarchist nature, the dynamics of this terminology system spontaneously leads to patterns of terminology common to the whole community or to subgroups of it. Surprisingly, this emergent and evolving semiotic system provides a very efficient navigation system through a large, complex and heterogeneous sea of information. Our project proposes a visionary and high risk research aimed at giving a scientific foundation to these developments, so contributing to the growth of the new field of semiotic dynamics. Semiotic dynamics studies how semiotic relations can originate, spread, and evolve over time in populations, by combining recent advances in linguistics and cognitive science with methodological and theoretical tools of complex systems and computer science. The project aims at exploiting the unique opportunity offered by the availability of enormous amount of data. This goal will be achieved through: (a) a systematic and rigorous gathering of data that will be made publicly available to the consortium and to the scientific community; (b) designing and implementing innovative tools and procedures for data analysis and mining; (c) constructing suitable modelling schemes which will be implemented in extensive numerical simulations. We aim in this way at providing a virtuous feedback between data collection, analysis, modelling, simulations and (whenever possible) theoretical constructions, with the final goal to understand, predict and control the semiotic dynamics of on line social systems.