December 2012 Theme: Social Multimedia Communication
Guest Editor's Introduction: Christian Timmerer

In the past, users generally consumed multimedia content in a passive manner without any interaction. Today, universal access to multimedia is technically feasible anywhere, anytime, and with any device thanks to the evolution of and investments in networking infrastructure, which have dramatically increased the available bandwidth. A side effect of this evolution is that multimedia content is no longer only consumed but also produced and shared among individuals within a social context.

The success of so-called user-generated content (UGC) is paving the way toward universal multimedia provisioning. We’re no longer simply consuming multimedia; we’re effectively in the era of creating our own content and sharing it within our social networks via existing platforms. We haven’t stopped consuming professional content, but behavioral patterns have changed from purely passive to more active, in which we might search for related information while watching a documentary or discuss — using text, voice, video, or combinations thereof — with our best friends while watching the UEFA Champions League final. Additionally, we use social platforms to share our views concerning multimedia content independently of whether we are consuming it linearly or on demand.

Back in August 2010, an article called “Social Multimedia Computing” appeared in Computer in which Yonghong Tian and his colleagues identified a new cross-disciplinary research and application field that includes multimedia communication — specifically, peer-to-peer. They described the key challenges as multimedia social dynamics, relationship discovery and prediction, and, most importantly, fusion analysis of content, network, and context.

Researchers have widely studied context-awareness in the literature, and Paul Lukowicz and his colleagues have gone a step further — namely, “From Context Awareness to Socially Aware Computing” (in IEEE Pervasive Computing). In this article, they describe means toward reliable and practical recognition of social contexts pertaining to communities or individuals.

The development of datasets and corresponding benchmarks is an important aspect of social multimedia communication. In the IEEE MultiMedia article, “The Community and the Crowd: Multimedia Benchmark Dataset Development,” Martha Larson and her colleagues describe how to identify promising multimedia use cases and develop corresponding datasets. In particular, they show that crowdsourcing is a viable method for developing multimedia ground truth.

Such datasets can become quite large and require substantial storage, much like data created within social networks. To address those needs, Imranul Hoque and Indranil Gupta’s “Disk Layout Techniques for Online Social Network Data” (IEEE Internet Computing) examines how to leverage community structure in a social graph to make placement decisions that optimize read latency. Experimental results show that their approach could improve the median response time for online social network operations by as much as 48 percent.

The communication in social networks is usually ad hoc and often follows a peer-to-peer paradigm. The IEEE Transactions on Mobile Computing article by Kang Chen and colleagues proposes “Leveraging Social Networks for P2P Content-Based File Sharing in Disconnected MANETs.” To address the needs of such mobile ad hoc networks, the authors present SPOON, a system that groups as communities those common-interest nodes that frequently meet with each other, while taking into account users’ mobility. Additionally, they propose an interest-oriented file searching scheme designed for high efficiency.

Finally, the computer science research community is catching up in terms of social networking, and in “Innovation Mashups: Academic Rigor Meets Social Networking Buzz” (appeared in Computer) Dejan Milojicic and the associate editors here at Computing Now explore new options for content publishing, including the need to communicate among each other around multimedia content.


Christian Timmerer is a researcher, entrepreneur, and teacher on immersive multimedia communication, streaming, adaptation, and quality of experience. He is a Computing Now associate editor and chair of the Special Technical Community (STC) on Social Networking. Follow Christian on Twitter at and subscribe to his blog at