Ravi Singh


Donald Trump Literature Reviews

Using the Internet to Understand How People are Connecting

Using the Internet to Understand How People are Connecting

Lazer, D., Pentland, A., Adamic, L., Aral, S., Barabasi, A. L., Brewer, D., . . . Van Alstyne, M. (2009). Life in the network: The coming age of computational social science. Science, 323(5915), 721–723. doi:10.1126/science.1167742

In this article, the authors consider the implications of and, in turn, advocate for the development of a data-driven “computational social science” in both academia and society, particularly as a means to consider human interactions and develop “qualitatively new perspectives on collective human behavior” (p. 723) through the use of online data. In doing so, the authors review a series of examples of potential sources of data collection in this area, including video recording and analysis of early childhood, group interactions through e-mail data, face-to-face group interactions over time using sociometers, macro communication patterns (e.g., call and instant messaging data), tracking movement (i.e., through GPS and related technologies), and the Internet. Within the latter example, the authors discuss how the Internet provides a means to understand “what people are saying, and how they are connecting” (p. 723), such as examining online behaviors in relation to politics, and how social network websites may impact a person’s structural position in various aspects of life. The authors then identify barriers to the advancement of a computational social science pertaining to approach (e.g., the need to develop analysis tools) and infrastructure (e.g., managing access and privacy), as well as the need for an interdisciplinary “paradigm of training for new scholars” (p. 724).

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