Sociology 596: Web-based Social Research
Location: 190 Wallace Hall
Instructor: Matthew Salganik
The Internet has already changed the way we live and work, but it has only started to change the way we conduct social science research. This seminar will provide students with an overview of the new types of research that the Internet makes possible including online experiments, games, wikis, and web-crawling. These new data collection possibilities may help researchers better understand both individual behavior and collective social dynamics.
Each class will consist of a general discussion of several readings followed by student presentations of specific research projects. Students are expected to come to class prepared for discussion as well as present a few articles during the course of the semester. There will be no exam, but students will be expected to complete a final paper or project.
1. Introduction (Feb 5)
In this first class we will cover a broad overview of web-based research, focusing on both strengths and weaknesses.
- Skitka L.J. and Sargis, E.G. (2006). The internet as psychological laboratory. Annual Review of Psychology, 57:529-555.
- Watts, D.J. (2007). A twenty-first century science. Nature, 445:489.
- Gosling, S.G. et al. (2004). Should we trust web-based studies? A comparative analysis of six preconceptions about internet questionnaires. American Psychologist, 59(2):93-104.
- Kraut, R. et al. (2004) Psychological research online: Report of Board of Scientific Affairs' advisory group on the conduct of research on the internet. American Psychologist, 59(2):105-117.
- Nosek, B.A., Banaji, M.R., and Greenwald, A.G. (2002). E-research: Ethics, security, design and control in psychological research on the internet. Journal of Social Issues, 58(1):161-176.
- Introduction to google adwords: Basic adwords features, Benefits of adwords
- Introduction to facebook ads
- Check out some existing on-line studies
2. Experiments (Feb 12, but will be changed)
The web offers numerous advantages over the traditional laboratory for the conduct of social science experiments. First, the web allows researchers to conduct experiments on a completely different scale; lab experiments are limited to hundreds of participants, but web-based experiments involving tens of thousands of participants have already been conducted and larger experiments are becoming increasingly practical. The web also allows researchers access to a much broader pool of participants and allows researchers to study decision making in a more natural environment. But, conducting experiments on the web also includes some drawbacks mostly related to limited control over experimental participants. We will discuss two types of web-based experiments: those on self-standing sites and those on pre-existing sites.
For general discussion
- Reips, U.D. (2002). Standards for internet-based experimenting. Experimental Psychology, 49(4):243-256.
- Eckel, C.C. and Wilson, R.K. (2006). Internet cautions: Experimental games with internet partners. Experimental Economics, 9:53-66.
- Salganik, M.J., Dodds, P.S., Watts, D.J. (2006). Experimental study of inequality and unpredictability in an artificial cultural market. Science, 311:854-856 (also read supporting online materials).
- Dodds, P. S., Muhamad, R., and Watts, D. J. (2003). An experimental study of search in global social networks. Science, 301:827-829 (also read supporting online materials).
- Nosek, B. A., Banaji, M. R., and Greenwald, A. G. (2002). Harvesting implicit group attitudes and beliefs from a demonstration web site. Group Dynamics, 6(1):101-115.
- Kuwabara, K., et al. (2007). Culture, identity, and structure in social exchange: A web-based trust experiment in the U.S. and Japan. Social Psychology Quarterly, in press.
- Goldstone, R.L., Ashpole, B.C. (2004). Human foraging beahvior in a virtual enviroment. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 11(3):508-514.
Experiments on other sites
- Hanson, W.A. and Putler, D.S. (1996). Hits and misses: Herd behavior and online product popularity. Marketing Letters, 7(4):297-305.
- Resnick, P., Zeckhauser, R., Swanson, J., and Lockwood, K. (2006). The value of reputation on eBay: A controlled experiment. Experimental Economics, 9:79-101.
- Katkar, R. and Reiley, D.H. (2006). Public versus Secret Reserve Prices in eBay Auctions: Results from a Pokemon Field Experiment. Advances in Economic Analysis & Policy, 6(2):Article 7.
- Introduction to the Facebook API
3. Screen scraping, APIs, web crawling, and text mining (Feb 19)
There is a tremendous amount of data available on the web, but it's often not in the format that we want. For example, Godard and Mears were interested in the movement of models between fashion houses and style.com presents photos from fashion shows where all the models are labeled (here are labeled photos from the Spring 2008 Marc Jacobs ready-to-wear runway show). It would be possible to extract the names of these models by hand, but that would be laborious and time consuming. Instead, we can write a program to extract that information for us automatically.
For general discussion
4. Virtual worlds, MMORPGs, and large games (Feb 26)
Virtual worlds, such as World of Warcraft and Second Life, are environments where thousands of people come together and interact, offering us a chance to study social dynamics on a massive scale. Edward Castronova has gone so far as to predict that these virtual worlds will become "the supercolliders of social science."
For general discussion
- Castronova, E. (2006). On the research value of large games: Natural experiments in Norrath and Camelot. Games and Culture, 1(2):163-186.
- Slater, M. et al. (2006). A virtual reprise of the Stanley Milgram obedience experiments. PLOS ONE, 1:e39.
- Lofgren, E.T. and Fefferman, N.H. (2007). The untapped potential of virtual game world to shed light on real world epidemics. The Lancet Infectious Diseases, 7:625-629.
- [See also Balicer (2007)]
- Balicer, R.D. (2007). Modeling infectious diseases dissemination through online role playing-games. Epidemiology, 18:260-261.
- [See also Lofgren and Fefferman (2007)]
- Yee, N. et al. (2007). The unbearable likeness of being digital: The persistence of nonverbal social norms in online virtual environments. CyberPsychology and Behavior, 10(1):115-121.
- [See also Friendman, Steed, and Slater (2007)]
- Friedman, D., Steed, A., Slater, M. (2007). Spatial social behavior in Second Life. published in Intelligent Virtual Agents (Lecture Notes in Computer Science).
- [See also Yee et al. (2007)]
5. Clickstream and digital traces (March 4)
Tremendous amounts of data about our behavior, purchases, and whereabouts are now being collected automatically. In addition to raising privacy concerns, these automatically collected "digital traces" provided exciting opportunities for research. Clickstream data -- records of click behavior at websites that are automatically recorded in the server log files of the website owner -- are a particularly exciting new avenue for studying choice behavior in a natural environment.
For general discussion
- Schneider, M. and Buckley, J. (2002). What do parents want from schools? Evidence from the internet. Education Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 24(2):133-144.
- Kossinets, G. and Watts, D. J. (2006). Empirical analysis of an evolving social network. Science, 301:88-90.
- Onnela, J.P. et al. (2007). Structure and tie strength in mobile communication networks. PNAS, 104(18):7332-7336.
- Foster, A. M., et al. (2006). Providing medical abortion information to diverse communities: Use patterns of a multilingual web site. Contraception, 74:264-271.
- Wynn, L. and Trussell, J. (2005). The morning after on the internet: Usage and questions to the emergency contraception website. Contraception, 72:5-13.
- Hitsch, G.J., Hortacsu, A., and Ariely, D. (2006). What makes you click? Mate preferences and matching outcomes in online dating. Working paper.
- Introduction to the Audioscrobbler API
6. Games, crowdsourcing, wikis, and citizen science (March 11)
Anyone who has used wikipedia understands the power of large-scale social collaboration. Is it possible to harness this collective power for other types of research?
For general discussion
- Bovey, J. and Rodgers, P. (2007). A method for testing graph visualizations using games, in Visualization and Data Analysis 2007, volume 6495 of Proceedings Electronic Imaging. SPIE.
- Brockmann, D., Hufnagel, L. and Geisel, T. (2006). The scaling laws of human travel, Nature, 439:462-465.
- Beenen, G., et al. (2004). Using social psychology to motive contributions to online communities. CSCW '04: Proceedings of the 2004 ACM conference on Computer supported cooperative work, 212-221.
Stuff for next year
This is interesting stuff that I found while the course was progressing. Hopefully, we can include this in a future class.
- Chesney, T., Chuah, S., and Hoffmann, R. (2007). Virtual worlds experimention: An exploratory study. Working paper.
- Drehmann, M., Oechssler, J., and Roider, A. (2005). Herding and contrarian behavior in financial markets: An internet experiment. American Economic Review, 95(5):1403-1426.
- Check out Croquet (open source vitural world).
- Check out Arden (virtual world designed for academic study).
- Check out Netscan, an archieve of usenet posts.
- Check out Free rice, a vocabulary game that gives away food to charity.
- Check out the restaurant game.
- Barker, C. (2008). Trying to Design a Truely Entertaining Game Can Defeat Even a Certified Genius. Wired.
- von Ahn, L. et al. (2008). reCAPTCHA: Human-based character recognition via web security measures. Science.
- von Ahn, L. and Dabbish L. (2008). General techniques for designing games with a purpose. Communications of the ACM, 58-67.
- Lazer, D., et al. (2009). Computational social science. Science, 323:721-723.
- Shneiderman, B. (2009). A National Initiative for Social Participation. Science 323(5920): 1426-1427.
- Shneiderman, B. and Preece, J. (2007). 911.gov. Science 315(5814): 944.
- Preece, J. and Shneiderman, B. (2009) The Reader-to-Leader Framework: Motivating Technology-Mediated Social Participation. AIS Transactions on Human-Computer Interaction 1(1): 13-32.
- Mason, Winter. Guide to Experiments on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk.
- Dodds, P.S. and Danforth, C.M. (2009). Measuring the Happiness of Large-Scale Written Expression: Songs, Blogs, and Presidents. Journal of Happiness Studies.