Workshop on Paradigms for Control in Social Systems

1-3 June, 2015 – Reykjavik, Iceland
Held in Conjunction with ICCS 2015


The aim of this workshop is to assemble the framework around which the design of control in social systems can be systematically studied and implemented. The majority of work on social systems has focused on analyzing the behavior and dynamics of the way that populations, organizations, businesses, and groups interact and evolve. Significantly less work has considered the influence we can have on such systems. However, governments, marketing agencies, political parties, and other organizations attempt to influence social systems on a daily basis through the development of economic incentives, laws, advertising campaigns, vaccinations, and other mechanisms for change.

There are huge opportunities for the development of a principled, formal framework for the control of social systems. To pursue this framework, we identify several major challenges which form the broad focal points for the workshop.

  • Survey case studies of control in social systems. An existing body of work concerns case-specific control/influence of social systems. While highly specific to the domain and system in question, these case studies provide important insights into the objectives, practical challenges, and approaches to control of social systems in the real world.
  • Formalize the practical control problems that exist for different types of social systems. Many different kinds of social systems exist and, as a result, the objectives of control differ across these systems. Articulating what these control problems are for different domains is an important starting point for work in this area.
  • Cast existing strategies for influencing social systems in formal terms. Various strategies already exist for influencing the state of social systems. By expressing these strategies in mathematical/computational/control-theoretic terms, we gain the ability to better assess the potential and limits of such strategies.
  • Explore relationships among control mechanisms from different disciplines. Here we seek to understand the extent to which control strategies for one kind of social system (e.g., economies) can be applied to other systems (e.g., trust networks).

This workshop will bring together application-oriented and methodology-oriented researchers. Application-focused social scientists will provide system definitions, constraints, potential mechanisms for influence, and case studies that highlight success stories of social control. Methods-focused modelers will provide analytic and computational models and algorithms to express the behavior of social systems as well as the effect of intervention strategies. While the workshop will not be able to completely solve any of the aims listed above, we can make significant strides towards establishing the scaffolding around which and research community through which we can build a framework for the control of social systems.