What “big data” can do for you
Assistant Professor Zeynep Tufekci of the University of Baltimore-Maryland County will deliver a Faculty Guest Lecture from no0n-1 p.m. Monday, March 7 in the Ehrlicher Room, 3100 North Quad.
Her talk will be on “From Little People to Big Data: Levels of Analysis and its Discontents.” Tufekci is an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County. She’s a former programmer turned social scientist. Her research interests include social impacts of technology, theorizing the Web, inequality, and complex systems research.
The speaker provided the following abstract of her talk:
“Thanks mostly to availability of data due to the spread of digitally mediated social interaction, which generates ‘footprints’ in ways ordinary activities do not, there has been an explosion of scholarly work using big datasets. This is one of the most revolutionary developments to have happened to the social sciences since their inception. However, this explosion in the availability of the data also creates pitfalls.
“In this talk, I will present results from multiple studies, highlighting examples of such fragile inflection points between big data and a micro-level view of social interaction. Specifically, I present findings from the General Social Survey which suggest that some of the commonly used methods for assessing the role of weak ties in human networks may be superseded by sociological developments; also discuss results which examine the relationship between gendered-patterns of social interaction online and network structure, and how that translates into differential patterns of social capital; and also unveil data which show that, among children, computer use tends to reproduce patterns of class, race and gender-based inequities.
“I conclude by suggesting specific next steps and potential research projects which merge the scale of big datasets with social theory, using the latest uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa as an example. My goal is not to focus on any particular finding but to examine ways in which the opportunity presented by big datasets can be used and integrated with social theory and micro-level sociological understanding of human behavior in ways which may revolutionize the field of study of human behavior.”
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