Online communities, recommender systems, blogs, wikis and other types of “Web 2.0” or “social” online media have become an important feature of 21st century economic and public life. Although there is agreement that these new media are having a profound impact on our cultural, consumption and civic attitudes, their basic mechanisms and the direction in which they affect economic and social change are still poorly understood. For example, in the business domain there is currently debate with respect to when “Web 2.0” media will help increase the diversity of consumption, shifting demand towards the “long tail” of obscure products, and when they will further reinforce the dominance of a few popular products.
The answer has important implications for a wide range of firm decisions, from product development to industry structure. We believe that the study of the complex ecosystem of Internet media will benefit from integrating insights obtained through traditional social science methods with computational approaches that can help predict the emergent large-scale behaviors as well as inform social and information sciences about areas where further research is needed.