IBM does some very interesting research. One of the areas of research is Social Computing. Research and publication is done by IBM’s Social Computing Group.
On the site of the Social Computing Group you can read the following.
“The premise of the Social Computing Group is that it is possible to design digital systems that provide a social context for our activities. Our approach does not try to imitate the real world (e.g., virtual reality or video); these approaches seem heavy-weight, and we note that new technologies often try (and ultimately fail) to imitate older technologies (thus movies initially imitated plays, and autos imitated buggies). Instead, we use “social proxies,” minimalist graphical representations of the online presence and activities of people. Properly designed and implemented, we believe such representations can provide online contexts within which the social processes that underlie so much human behavior — such as imitation, norming, and peer pressure — can operate.”
They have some interesting publications. Recommended.