Ahead of this year’s APSA general meeting, we attended the Politics and Computational Social Science (PaCSS) pre-conference, hosted at Northeastern University. The event brought together political scientists working with large-scale data sets and emerging computational methods.
By Timo Hannay
Here's a multiple-choice question: Is the internet (a) the most open, egalitarian and empowering means of communication ever devised, or (b) a dystopian nightmare populated by hucksters, trolls and miscellaneous abusers of human rights? The answer is, of course, (c) all of the above and much else besides. This stark contrast between the internet's light and dark sides has become a defining characteristic of the digital age, but is not an inevitable consequence of the mostly innocuous technologies on which it's built. Rather, it is the product of their bewilderingly diverse and eccentric user base – otherwise known as humanity.
In this Social Science Bite, Professor Gary King, uses text analysis as an example of this big data analysis... King, spotlights the difference between computer scientists’ goals and social scientists’ goals, then talks about work examining social media and censorship in China.
For years political scientist Gary King has argued and preached for a restructuring of the social sciences that would include “larger scale, collaborative, interdisciplinary, lab-style research teams” with big data analysis in their DNA. "The key reasons social sciences are moving from studying problems individually… to the scientific model where we’re actually solving problems, is because of the community. It is much easier to fool ourselves than it is to fool our community.” - Gary King