Tools & Technology

How researchers around the world are making use of Weibo data

Zoufan posted her last words on Weibo on 18, March, 2012. She was suffering from a major depressive disorder, and shortly after - committed suicide. Weibo is a microblogging application, launched by Sina Corporation back in 2009, based on user relationships to share, disseminate and get information. In essence, it is similar to Twitter, although it has a number of other useful capabilities. The app has more than 400 million users (compared to Twitter’s 300 million) and features that enable the study of emotional states and responses to the topics being discussed or spread across the web.

Collecting social media data for research

Human social behavior has rapidly shifted to digital media services, whether Gmail for email, Skype for phone calls, Twitter and Facebook for micro-blogging, or WhatsApp and SMS for private messaging.  This digitalization of social life offers researchers an unprecedented world of data with which to study human life and social systems. However, accessing this data has become increasingly difficult.

Matchmaking tools: Augmenting the relationship between research and industry

On a Friday evening in 1922, you could turn on the radio in Schenectady NY and hear Hermann Briggs talking about the latest research and discoveries around common disease and illnesses. Radio, and later TV, were the most exciting and widest reaching media platforms where research knowledge could be shared with the public.

Today, researchers have access to a whole host of media (podcasts, YouTube channels, Ted Talks, etc.) to talk about their research and how it can be fun or useful for the public.

Artificial intelligence for entity resolution with Jeff Jonas

Jeff Jonas, the world’s foremost expert on entity resolution and the inventor of the original NORA (Non-Obvious Relationship Awareness) technology developed for Las Vegas casinos, brings entity resolution to life. This unique technology (an IBM spin-out) is a purpose built real-time AI for delivering human quality entity resolution – determining “who is who” and “who is related to who” – without training, tuning or experts.

Watch the technology in action and see how it works.

Event roundup: Future or fad? VR in social science research

At the end of February we ran a most enthralling event experience. Three panelists, two hosts and about 20 attendees all put their headsets on from their labs, offices and homes to join a virtual classroom decorated with trees, a castle, a slightly scary tiger and a hippo, to talk about the future of VR in social science research.

Virtual reality headsets for testing and research

This blog post outlines what headsets you can use for our next event.

There are currently 3 types of hardware to access visually and audio-immersive experiences: headsets that connect to your PC, headgear that works with your mobile phone, and standalone devices. Besides varying in price, they also differ in their capabilities and hence are intended for different use cases.

Roundup: #text2data - new ways of reading

‘From text to data - new ways of reading’ was a 2-day event organised by the National Library of Sweden, the National Archives and Swe-Clarin. The conference brought together librarians, digital collection curators, and scholars in digital humanities and computational social science to talk about the tools and challenges involved in large scale text collection and analysis.

Making a feminist Alexa

A few days ago I made a skill for Amazon Alexa. I wrote a performative, conversational script in which a disobedient Alexa is raising questions on gender and makes a feminist critique of conversational technologies.

Virtual reality: the future of experimental social research?

Virtual Reality technology is opening previously locked doors to researchers in the social sciences. But how viable is it really as a research tool? We take a look back over the history of experimental research in human perception and response to consider the future of VR in experimental design.

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.  

Collecting mobile application usage data

Widely used apps like Facebook, Twitter or Google Maps count millions of users and are already deeply entrenched in our daily social life. However, while we know that mobile map applications are used quite often, we know very little about how they are used

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. 

Social network analysis of the 2017 "Summer of Hate"

Fifty years after the "Summer of Love" transformed American youth culture, Andrew Anglin, the proprietor of the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer, announced to his followers that the summer of 2017 would be "The Summer of Hate."

Image tagging in SAGE Journals - part two

In this follow-on post, we focus on data analysis and discuss co-occurrences of tags in images, and present an example of a co-occurrence network that represents a kind of "mental model" of SAGE journal images derived from the tags.

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