The big data originating from the digital breadcrumbs of human activities, sensed as a by-product of the ICT systems that we use, record the multiple dimensions of social life, and offer us an unprecedented opportunity for understanding the complex phenomena of the globally interconnected society we inhabit. We want to to highlight the scientific challenges needed to set the ground for a science and technology of social mining, the process to transform the raw big data of human activities into high level social knowledge, enabling us understand and manage social complexity. The scientific and technological framework for social mining that is based on three pillars:
- Social sensing, aimed at developing better methods for harvesting the big data from the techno-social ecosystem and to make such big data available for mining/analysis at a high abstraction level.
- Social mining, aimed at discovering patterns and models of human behavior across the various social dimensions: it is aimed at extracting multi-dimensional patterns and models from multi- dimensional networked data.
- Trust-based, privacy-aware digital ecosystem, aimed at creating a new deal around the questions of privacy and data ownership, empowering individual persons with control and transparency on own personal data and knowledge.
The social mining framework will provide the social microscope, or socioscope, needed to observe the hidden mechanisms of socio-economic complexity, with a strong impact on science and society at large as for example in the following exemplar scenarios:
- multi-dimensional indicators of social well-being, measured and monitored through big data;
- what-if scenarios for urban ecology and smart city, focused on car- pooling networks;
- monitoring and what-if scenarios for advanced touristic services.
In Pisa and Tuscany there is a critical mass of scientistists with the needed expertise to target such an ambitious program, based on their pioneering work on the topics of the various facets of social mining, as well as big data and tools and systems, as well as networks of international and interdisciplinary collaborators. According to a World Economic Forum report of 2009, personal data is becoming a new economic asset class, a key resource for the 21st century that will touch all aspects of society. Social mining aims at the creation of the scientific and technological framework that can make this new asset, the big social data, flow and become knowledge for all and everyone.