Guest Blog

Starting out in computational social science

It’s an exciting time to be in social science. Social media, digital identities and the world of big data has opened up new ways for social scientists to study and examine social phenomenon.

Some examples include using online search patterns to predict the spread of disease, tracking near real-time Twitter data to understand political movements or using location data to understand interpersonal interactions.

The move to a digital world has created a innovative new area of social science called computational social science (CSS).

Training social scientists for the future

Calling all social scientists. How were you trained? How are you keeping up (or not) with new developments in this rapidly changing digital world? How are you training your students?

This was the subject of an event sponsored by SAGE Ocean as part of the ESRC’s 2018 Festival of Social Science. In case you are not aware, Sage, who have been at the forefront of publishing qualitative work, have now launched SAGE Ocean – an initiative “to help social scientists to navigate vast datasets and work with new technologies”.

Tomorrow’s News Today

Throughout history humanity has had the urge to predict the future. The Greeks consulted the Delphi Oracle, whereas the Romans inspected sheep entrails and modern day sages poke around tea leaves to get the skinny on the future. This desire to predict the future has found its way into finance where modern day Haruspices pop up on television to make confident boasts about the future direction of the share du jour. All, but the very fortunate of these modern day prophets fail at their impossible task.  

At Last! Agent Computing for Economics Policy

Today, there is a new window of opportunity to adopt agent computing as a mainstream analytic tool in economics. Here, I discuss four major aspects in which this technology can improve economic policymaking: causality and detail, scalability and response, unobservability and counterfactuals, and separating design from implementation. In addition, I highlight the crucial role that policy agencies and research funders have in this endeavor by supporting a new generation of computationally-enabled social scientists.

Agent Computing in Economics: A Rough Path towards Policy Applications

Agent computing is a simulation tool that has been successfully adopted in many fields where policy interventions are critical. Economics, however, has failed in doing so. Today, there are new opportunities for bringing agent computing into economic policy. In this post, I discuss why this technology has not been adopted for economic policy and point out new opportunities to do it.

Automated text analysis: Who is the threatening minority?

News media serves as a window into the society its readership represents. A newspaper’s description of a social group both demonstrates and constructs perceptions of that group within its audience. Understanding long-term trends or spatial differences in the representation of minority groups in news media can contribute to ongoing theoretical debates about the role and perception of minority groups in society. 

3 Challenges for Behavioral Research in the Age of Multimedia Big Data

With so much diverse data to dig into, the future of quantitative social science is exciting, particularly for those studying the granularities of individual-level behavior. In doing so, we must make sure that this research is ethical, robust and ultimately useful

Digital DNA: How to map our online behavior

Nowadays, issues related to the diffusion of fake news, rumours, hoaxes, as well as the diffusion of malware and viruses in online social networks have become so important as to transcend the virtual ecosystem and interfere with our businesses and societies. Currently, we are unable to effectively deal with these issues.

Humans broke the internet, understanding them better might help fix it

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.