Virtual Town Square builds on research in social computing that has been supported by various grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF), including the Digital Government Program (2004-2008), and most recently, the Social-Computational Systems (SoCS) Program.

Our SoSC funded project (2011-2014) is entitled Participation on the Town Square in the Era of Web 2.0. It is led by our research group at the Center for Human-Computer Interaction in the Department of Computer Science and the Department of Communication Studies at Virginia Tech.

Principal Investigators

Dr. Andrea Kavanaugh, Dr. John Tedesco, Dr. Manuel Pérez-Quiñones and Dr. Naren Ramakrishnan


Collective decision-making based on opportunities to stay informed, reflect, debate, and consider counter evidence is the foundation of democratic life. These opportunities are undermined by a strange combination of diminishing (or extinct) local print media, i.e., local newspapers, and by its obverse, a plethora of information and communication opportunities that are scattered across numerous disparate websites and social software systems.

We propose to leverage social software together with network analysis and data mining to harness and model local online resources and social interactions to support and foster broader and more diverse civic participation in America’s communities. We envision a single unified and comprehensive aggregator site – what we are calling a Virtual Town Square (VTS) – with locally relevant online content and social interaction generated elsewhere by citizens and organizations, as well as interaction and discussion directly on the site. We propose to conduct computational analyses of data derived from VTS to identify and analyze implicit social and information networks, and to track and model the flow of information throughout the community.

View complete project summary



This project was known as Colloki in a previous incarnation.