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HELIOS: A Context-aware Distributed Social Networking Framework

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - HELIOS (HELIOS: A Context-aware Distributed Social Networking Framework)

Período documentado: 2020-07-01 hasta 2022-02-28

Social networking platforms are now answering the deep-rooted need for communication between people. Social networks have evolved to have a substantial impact on society by becoming the primary place for people to share information and experiences. The motivations for participating in social media networks nowadays span beyond just being handy means for keeping in touch.

However, current online social media applications fail to address the complexity of social structures in several independent and interconnected contexts. Each social media has gained ground by fulfilling a single need with a single service and doing that remarkably well. Therefore, it can be argued that current social networks do not see a social graph as a means to express and empower meaningful relationships, but purely as a content distribution channel. Creating growth by optimizing each service to contemporary needs makes them ignorant of the dynamic nature of human life, including social relations.

HELIOS is substantially advancing the current approach to social media by introducing novel concepts for social graph creation and management, which are grounded in trust and transparency and will enrich the value of the user's social networks. Furthermore, HELIOS is based on a modular and extensible approach, enabling all features characterizing social media today - and growing beyond. Social media designers can now and in the future create novel social media apps on top of HELIOS, easily. The underlying technical paradigms reflect the European value system of decentralisation and cultural diversity under a common framework of understanding. Among others, these are concepts such as decentralisation, context detection in IoT environment, real and virtual object networking, peer-to-peer based content streaming and validation. Moreover, to ensure wider impact on civil society, diverse use-cases will be developed and tested in the project.

All in all, with the ambition to become a disruptive force in the European social media landscape, HELIOS aspires to lay the foundation for a new social network vision grounded on transparency and verification.

In order to reach the vision, the project HELIOS is

1. Producing an aging-resilient platform: The decentralized architecture of HELIOS platform directly renders it as unstoppable in the sense that no single third party can switch the platform off, while its peer-to-peer architecture will enable scalability.
The implemented technologies and tools are following an open source, with modular strategy enabling persistent improvement and adapting to technological and societal shifts.

2. Providing a real-life social experience, online: HELIOS is inspired by real-life organic networking occurring under a variety of distinct contexts and between people of different levels of familiarity. The HELIOS platform supports these intuitive features to be natively integrated into all social networking services that the project or future third parties may build on top of the platform.

3. Facilitating easy content production and delivery: The project develop modules and apps for orchestrating content production and delivering the created content made e.g. by single prosumers or prosumer groups, utilizing prosumer/professional content and delivering that through p2p network, premium edge servers or in mainstream media.

4. Investing in a developer-friendly architecture: keep the platform fresh and interesting: HELIOS platform consists of a robust core and powerful add-on modules essential for creating novel Social Network Services (SNS) easily. Each module provides API’s that are at developers’ disposal, while any developer can publish new modules to the platform. The platform provides social networking data for each user and each context, thus developers can roll-out their SNS’s that utilize existing social networks, e.g. communications between users, estimated trust between users in a particular context or advertising the SNS to friends.

5. Ensuring the platform's growth and resilience: Development and integration will be tested and validated with SMEs and humans on both -individual and group behaviour levels, to leverage multilevel and multiscope feedback and build better, more desirable and relevant technologies for all.
In HELIOS, the development integrates a multidisciplinary team of technical, ethical, legal, user experience, and artistic experts. Unique to the project, artists are updating project visions with 'Design Fiction' methodology throughout the project, feedng the ideas to technical development, integration and validation. Three use cases have been shaped through an iterative process, and there is a first version of the exploitation plan available together with several dissemination activities.

The project has published HELIOS platform Beta Release as Open Source, welcoming third party developers' contributions. Moreover, the project has already delivered a number of technical components including a library for Contextual Ego Networks, a distributed social graph mining model, a content-aware user profiling module, a VR authoring tool for building mobile social VR apps and a module and app for group communications. To support the technical choices and to disseminate the results, HELIOS has conducted a series of studies and published them with open access.
HELIOS will provide a mobile peer-to-peer social media platform, upon which third party developers can build novel services, each utilizing already existing social networks of users in the platform. This will substantially lower the bar for launching innovative services, some of them being already demonstrated in the project, such as citizen journalism and AR/VR applications, on top of more conventional messaging and content sharing.

The platform supports automatic feedback, with privacy aspects, indicating users, how their messages have been received. Furthermore, social connections will be associated with context-dependent trust. This information is available for applications to be developed upon HELIOS.

Modular as it is, the platform itself will grow with new functionalities and innovations beyond the scope of the project itself.
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