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The Web represents a collection of socio-technical activities interoperating using a set of common protocols and standards. Online banking, web TV, internet shopping, e-government and social networking are all different kinds of human interaction that have recently leveraged the capabilities of the Web architecture. Activities that have human and computer components are referred to as social machines. This paper introduces HTP, a sociotechnical model to understand, describe and analyze the formation and development of social machines and other web activities. HTP comprises three components: heterogeneous networks of actors involved in a social machine; the iterative process of translation of the actors' activities into a temporarily stable and sustainable social machine; and the different phases of this machine's adaptation from one stable state to another as the surrounding networks restructure and global agendas ebb and flow. The HTP components are drawn from an interdisciplinary range of theoretical positions and concepts. HTP provides an analytical framework to explain why different Web activities remain stable and functional, whilst others fail. We illustrate the use of HTP by examining the formation of a classic social machine (Wikipedia), and the stabilization points corresponding to its different phases of development.


Conference paper

Publication Date



921 - 925