This chapter posits that social computing applications, when appropriately combined, provide opportunities to facilitate organizational communication and collaboration, and ultimately, to enhance productivity. The authors illustrate this view by discussing ongoing work and initial experiences with the development and deployment of a number of social computing concepts and platforms. They particularly focus on the confluence of social bookmarking and social networks to enhance productivity in academic settings, as well as on the use of social networks for coordinating and managing group projects. They also discuss how social networks in immersive environments can result in opportunities for learning and training that may have a positive impact on productivity. They developed social computing prototypical applications for each of the areas they are exploring. Based upon observation of users and feedback obtained from them, they conclude that it is possible and desirable to take advantage of the collaborative nature of social computing applications so that participants engage in productive activities for the benefit of their organizations.
In very simple terms, productivity is a measure of output per unit of input. In economic terms, productivity is crucial as the growth of productivity determines the growth of a country’s material standard of living (Field, 2008). Concerns over the increasing popularity of social computing and its impact on productivity have prompted discussion and analysis from multiple perspectives and research groups. In this section we sample salient viewpoints and work that examines how various forms of social computing is affecting productivity. These forms include social networks, collaborative tagging, and multi-user virtual environments. We start by reviewing efforts to study the aspects of social computing technologies that may enhance productivity, as well as to provide forums for discussion and analysis. Next we focus on learning as an area of opportunity for social computing applications. Then we consider social bookmarking (or collaborative tagging) and its potential to support knowledge-intensive activities. We then center our attention on immersive virtual environments, which typically have been used for recreational purposes, and refer to work intended to introduce professional and productive applications into these environments. Finally, we review briefly work aimed to help organizations take advantage of social networks in the workplace.