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Archive for the ‘technology’ Category

twitter publics

The first “tweets/votes” paper established the basic correlation between tweet share and vote share in a a large sample of elections. Now, we’re working on papers that try to get a sense of who is driving the correlation. A new paper in Information, Communication, and Society reports on some progress. Authored by Karissa McKelvey, Joe DiGrazia and myself, “Twitter publics: how online political communities signaled electoral outcomes in the 2010 US house election” argues that the tweet-votes correlation is strongest when people compose syntactically simple messages. In other words, the people online who use social media in a very quotidian way are a sort of “issue public,” to use a political science term. They tend to follow politics and the talk correlates with the voting, especially if it is simple talk. We call this online audience for politics a “twitter public.” Thus, one goals of sociological research on social media is to assess when online “publics” act as a barometer or leading indicator of collective behavior.

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Written by fabiorojas

March 18, 2014 at 12:01 am

world wide heavy metal

My good friend Jeffrey Timberlake and his MA student Adam Mayer have a forthcoming paper on the world wide diffusion of heavy metal (early version here). It is coming out in Sociological Perspectives:

The purpose of this paper is to explain the timing and location of the diffusion of heavy metal music. We use data from an Internet archive to measure the population-adjusted rate of metal band foundings in 150 countries for the 1991–2008 period. We hypothesize that growth in “digital capacity” (Internet and personal computer use) catalyzed the diffusion of metal music. We include time-varying controls for gross national income, political regime, global economic integration, and degree of metal penetration of countries sharing a land or maritime border with each country. We find that digital capacity is positively associated with heavy metal band foundings, but, net of all controls, the effect is much stronger for countries with no history of metal music prior to 1990. Hence, our results indicate that increasing global digital capacity may be a stronger catalyst for between-country than for within-country diffusion of cultural products.

My inner Beavis yearns to come out.

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Written by fabiorojas

March 10, 2014 at 12:05 am

the new computational sociology conference – sign up today!

This coming August 15, Dan McFarland of Stanford University and I will host a conference on the new computational sociology at the Stanford campus. The goal is to bring together social scientists, informatics researchers, and computer scientists who are interested in how modern computation can be brought to bear on issues that are of central importance to sociology and related disciplines. Interested people should go to the following web site for information on registration and presentation topics. I hope to see you there.

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Written by fabiorojas

January 31, 2014 at 12:01 am

three visiting fellowships on innovation at the Technische Universitat in Berlin – due Feb. 15, 2014

One of our orgtheory readers, Jan-Peter Ferdinand, forwarded a flier about a fellowship opportunity at the Technische Universität in Berlin, Germany.   This sounds like a great opportunity for grad students and prospective post-docs who are studying innovation.

Here’s an overview:

The DFG graduate school “Innovation society today” at the Technische Universität Berlin, Germany, is pleased to advertise 3 visiting fellowships. The fellowships are available for a period of three months, either from April to June 2014 or October to December 2014.
The graduate school addresses the following key questions: How is novelty created reflexively; in which areas do we find reflexive innovation; and which actors are involved? Practices, orientations, and processes of innovations are studied in and between various fields, such as (a) science and technology, (b) the industrial and service sectors, (c) arts and culture, and (d) political governance, social planning of urban and regional spaces. More information about the graduate school can be found on our website: http://www.innovation.tu-berlin.de (click on the flag at the top of the page for an English version).

By following an extended notion of innovation, the graduate school strives to develop a sophisticated sociological view on innovation, which is more encompassing than conventional economic perspectives. Our doctoral students are currently undertaking a first series of case studies to promote a deeper and empirically founded understanding of the meaning of innovation in contemporary society and of the social processes it involves.

See this PDF (GW_Ausschreibung-2014) for more info, including deadline (Feb. 15, 2014) and application materials needed.

Written by katherinechen

January 21, 2014 at 8:50 pm

a sociologist working at facebook

Michael Corey is a PhD candidate in sociology at the University of Chicago. This guest post explains his experiences working for Facebook, the world’s leading social networking website (as if you didn’t know that!).

Another Dispatch from Industry

Last summer I moved from Chicago to the bay area to work as a quantitative researcher at Facebook. I’d done six years in the PhD program at Chicago and left with drafts of all my dissertation papers but without a cohesive dissertation to turn in (3 paper dissertations aren’t exactly allowed). Six months at Facebook has been eye opening and weird. Below I’ll try to give readers a feel for what it is like to go from an academic track to an industry job.

The FB Culture:

The culture at Facebook is really fun. I work at the main campus in Menlo Park, where a few thousand people work on the various FB platforms and the associated companies (Parse, Onavo, Instagram, etc). My mother-in-law describes it as an Oxford College designed by Willy Wonka, which is pretty fair. The campus houses everything you need to reduce any external friction that would take you off-campus during the day [http://cnettv.cnet.com/barber-candy-shop-bank-among-deluxe-perks-facebook/9742-1_53-50153870.html]. It is pretty easy to drink the Kool-Aid about how great FB is, and I would imagine that it is hard to work here if you don’t. I wasn’t the biggest FB user when I started here, but having been off the site for a long time I learned to recognize how much I missed by not being on it. For so many of my peers it is the only medium to communicate news, baby pictures, or cat memes to weak ties. Risk taking is encouraged and speed is considered a virtue.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by fabiorojas

January 14, 2014 at 12:02 am

university of chicago visit – everything you wanted to know about tweets and votes, but were afraid to ask

chi_logo

I will be a guest of the computational social science workshop at the University of Chicago this coming Friday. I will present a very detailed talk on the more tweets/more votes phenomena called “Everything You Wanted to Know About the Tweets-Votes Correlation, but Were Afraid to Ask.” If you want to chat or hang out, please email me.

Refreshments will be served.

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Written by fabiorojas

January 13, 2014 at 3:56 am

b-school org change syllabi bleg

To my brothers and sisters in the business schools:

I am interested in masters/doctoral level syllabi on the topic of organizational change, especially with a strategic management emphasis. Please provide links or email me directly. Much appreciated.

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Written by fabiorojas

October 31, 2013 at 12:05 am

best art installation of the year?

From rAndom International. Amazing.

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Written by fabiorojas

October 12, 2013 at 12:01 am

The Golden Age of LISREL

Jim Moody and I are writing an article on data visualization in Sociology. Here’s a picture that won’t be in the final version, but I like it all the same.

The Golden Age

Written by Kieran

September 25, 2013 at 7:11 pm

waiting for big data to change my world

I keep hearing about the coming big data revolution.  Data scientists are now using huge data sets, many produced through online interactions and media, that shed light on basic social processes.  Big data data sets,  from sources like Twitter, Facebook, or mobile phones, give social scientists ways to tap into interactions and cultural output at a scale that has never been seen before in social science.  The way we analyze data in sociology and organizational theory are bound to change due to this influx of new data.

Unfortunately, the big data revolution has yet to happen. When I see job candidates or new scholars present their research, they are mostly using the same methods that their predecessors did, although with incremental improvements to study design. I see more field experiments for sure, and scholars seem more attuned to identification issues, but the data sources are fairly similar to what you would have seen in 2003. With a few notable exceptions, big data have yet to change the way we do our work. Why is that?

Last week Fabio had a really interesting post about brain drain in academia. One reason we might see less big data than we’d like is because the skills needed to handle this type of analysis are rare and much of the talent in this area is finding that research jobs in the for-profit world are more lucrative and rewarding than what they’re being offered in academia. I believe that’s true, especially for the kinds of people who are attracted to data mining techniques. The other problem though, I think, is that social scientists are having a hard time figuring out how to fit big data techniques into the traditional milieu of social science. Sociologists, for example, want studies to be framed in a theoretically compelling way. Organizational theorist would like scholars to use data that map on to the conceptual problems of the field. It’s not always clear in many of the studies that I’ve read and reviewed that big data analyses are doing anything new other than using big data. If big data studies are going to take over the field they need to address pressing theoretical problems.

With that in mind, you should really read a new paper by Chris Bail (forthcoming in Theory and Society) about using big data in cultural sociology.  Chris makes the case that cultural sociology, a subfield that is obsessed with understanding the origins of and practical uses of meaning, is prime for a big data surge. Cultural sociology has the theoretical questions, and big data research offers the methods.

More data were accumulated in 2002 than all previous years of human history combined. By 2011, the amount of data collected prior to 2002 was being collected very two days. This dramatic growth in data spans nearly every part of our lives from gene sequencing to consumer behavior. While much of these data are binary and quantitative, text-based data is also being accumulated on an unprecedented scale. In an era of social science research plagued by declining survey response rates and concerns about the generalizability of qualitative research, these data hold considerable potential. Yet social scientists – and cultural sociologists in particular – have ignored the promise of so-called ‘big data.’ Instead, cultural sociologists have left this wellspring of information about the arguments, worldviews, or values of hundreds of millions of people from internet sites and other digitized texts to computer scientists who possess the technological expertise to extract and manage such data but lack the theoretical direction to interpret their meaning in situ….[C]ultural sociologists have made very few ventures into the universe of big data. In this article, I argue inattention to big data among cultural sociologists is particularly surprising since it is naturally occurring – unlike survey research or cross-sectional qualitative interviews – and therefore critical to understanding the evolution of meaning structures in situ. That is, many archived texts are the product of conversations between individuals, groups, or organizations instead of responses to questions created by researchers who usually have only post-hoc intuition about the relevant factors in meaning-making – much less how culture evolves in ‘real time’ (note: footnotes and references removed).

Chris goes on to offer suggestions about how cultural sociology might use big data to address big theoretical questions. For example, he believes that scholars studying discursive fields would be wise to use big data methods to evaluate the content of such fields, the relationships between actors and ideas, and the relationships between different fields. Of course, much of the paper is about how to use big data analysis to enhance or replace traditional methods used in cultural sociology.  He discusses how Twitter and Facebook data might supplement newspaper analysis, a fairly common method in cultural and political sociology. Although he doesn’t go into great detail about how you would do it, an implicit argument he makes is that big data analysis might replace some survey methods as ways to explore public opinion.

I continue to think there is enormous potential for using big data in the social sciences. The key for having it accepted more broadly is for data scientists to figure out how to use big data to address important theoretical questions. If you can do that, you’re gold.

Written by brayden king

June 28, 2013 at 8:17 pm

more tweets, more votes – but why?

tweets_varied

In the More Tweets, More Votes paper, we established that Twitter share correlates with future Congressional election results (e.g., % of tweets that mention GOP in a district correlates with the GOP vote share in the district). The deeper question – why? We’ve got a working paper that suggests an answer: Twitter, in some respects, mimics conventional text, which means that is close enough to the grass roots. In other words, people are more likely to use technology if it resembles what they know – an idea going back to a classic paper by Kwon and Zmud.

We can tease out testable implications. Specifically, technologies that are more sophisticated will be less likely to correlate with mass politics. In others, social media that is easy to use and relies mainly on pre-existing language skills are more likely to correlate with social trends than social media that require higher levels of functionality.

We test this with our tweets/votes data. We measured three types of candidate tweet share – “free text,” @mentions, and #hashtags. Free text is the “people’s” method of tweeting, while @mentions and #hashtags are syntaxes that require more knowledge. The grassroots hypothesis implies free text mentions of candidates will have a stronger correlation with election outcomes than @mentions or #hashtags. The results? Free texts correlate (as per the original paper) but the others are not significantly different from zero. The picture says it all.

Stark result. The implication is profound for social scientific studies of social media. If your data requires distinctly Internet based skills, it is less likely to speak to population level trends. Sophistication is probably the mark of connoisseur. Indeed, additional analysis of our data shows that @mention and #hashtag users are “intense” Internet users. For example, they have bigger median followers and are more likely to be “verified” by Twitter.

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Written by fabiorojas

June 26, 2013 at 12:35 am

cfp 5th Latin American and European Meeting on Organization Studies, Havana, Cuba, April 2-5, 2014

For those of you looking for a reason to head to Cuba and present your research, here’s your chance.

“Constructing Alternatives: How can we organize for alternative social, economic, and ecological balance?”
5th annual Latin American and European Meeting on Organization Studies, Havana, Cuba, April 2-5, 2014

“…the purpose of this 5th LAEMOS Colloquium is to share empirical and theoretical research on the dynamics of development, resistance, and innovation with the aim to promote alternative forms of organization in Latin American and European societies…Under the general theme of the meeting, the aim is to collect and connect a broad variety of studies, narratives and discourses on initiatives for alternative forms of development and innovation. We also welcome studies and reflections about the redefinition of boundaries, collaboration, and conflict among government, business, and civil society, in shaping social change, organizational (re-)configuration, and developmental action…

In particular, this is a Call for Papers for the following prospective sub-themes (but not limited to them):
The corporatization of politics and the politicization of corporations
The political economy of organizations
Sustainable and unsustainable tales of sustainability and social development
Alternative roles and forms of managerial action
Alternative spaces: communities, cities as models of collective agency
Transnational networks for protest and for change
Digital worlds, online forms of organization and action

Papers taking an interdisciplinary perspective on dynamics of change, innovation, power and resistance are particularly encouraged. Theoretical and empirical papers looking at alternative forms of social, economic, and ecological development from an organizational perspective are also of special interest. They may include studies that link micro level case analysis to macro level institutional and global forces, that investigate processes as well as structures, and that take a historical and contextual approach….

Deadlines:
Subtheme Proposal: July 31, 2013
Abstract submission (1,000 words): 15 November, 2013
Notification of acceptance: 15 December, 2013
Submission of full paper (6,000 words): 5 March, 2014
You are welcome to submit a subtheme proposal at laemos2014 [at] gmail.com. For more information about the conference and frequent updates please check www.laemos.com.”

Full cfp available here.

Written by katherinechen

June 24, 2013 at 7:21 pm

codefellas

From David Rees/WIRED magazine.

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Written by fabiorojas

June 24, 2013 at 4:04 am

kieran on slate today

Kieran has a satirical piece on Slate today: Using Metadata to Find Paul Revere. Check it out.

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Written by fabiorojas

June 10, 2013 at 8:44 pm

did the internet just kill the constitution?

Last week, it was revealed that the NSA collects important data about all Verizon phone calls and has access to the servers of most major Internet firms like Facebook and Google. Of course, this sort of behavior is exactly what civil rights activists had warned about for years.

But there is a deeper lesson – the Internet has made it remarkably easy for the Federal government to collect enormous amounts of information on many aspects of our lives. If the reports are to be believed, the Prism program, which allows the Feds to search Internet firms, costs only $20 million. I can’t imagine the downloading of Verizon data can’t be that much more expensive. When communication was mainly done through voice and paper, this simply was not possible at the same scale.

So it has come to this. The Internet gives us cheap and easy communication, but it also makes a low cost copy of everything that third parties can hold onto, whether we like it or not. It is clear that the Courts, Congress, and the President aren’t in a rush to make sure that searches are done for probable cause. As I type this, President Obama asserts that it’s ok because they can’t hear your calls, but they just know who you are calling all the time. It’s not clear to me that there is anything that will reverse the erosion of privacy in the Internet age.

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Written by fabiorojas

June 10, 2013 at 12:44 am

Posted in ethics, fabio, technology

a twiggle – all possible tweets

Definition: Given a set of X characters, a twiggle is the total possible number of tweets, or X^140. Since most English speakers will use the ASCII characters, one standard English twiggle is 95^140:

76,085,997,811,183,562,98,135,408,710,

751,483,265,995,839,561,200,415,768,

293,251,897,463,276,887,905,308,084,

750,663,238,388,192,091,262,455,112,

983,664,085,632,015,778,607,866,277,

286,667,119,278,691,334,591,691,395,

102,241,018,148,609,396,820,768,967,

497,516,903,602,766,888,745,368,135,

114,497,853,537,865,999,264,122,596,

201 ,787,018,799,223,005,771,636,962,

890,625

This was computed using the Online Long Number Calculator.

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Written by fabiorojas

June 9, 2013 at 12:28 am

no, facebook is *definitely* not a failure

Over at A Programmer’s Tale, “jewsin” argues that Facebook is a failure because it encourages people to post junk. Two clips:

I am signed into Facebook right now. At a quick glance, the entire list of posts on the first screen are irrelevant to me. If I scrolled down I can find 4 stories I actually care about, from a list of about 30. The most important page on Facebook has more than three-fourths of absolutely useless content.

Surprising. Facebook is a company with a very large number of talented people. They know a lot about me. Yet, their product looks like one of those spam filled mailboxes from the nineties.

And:

Since everybody is on Facebook, one can expect that it will in some way mirror the behavior of society in general. In the real world however, people’s opinions only have a limited reach.

Facebook is godsent for people who love to talk, but have nothing to say. Here is a network that doesn’t care about originality or the quality of content. In the time it takes to create something original, they could share dozens of things.

I agree, but “jewsin” is missing the point. The point of Facebook isn’t to produce high quality content. It’s a tool for getting millions of people to divulge precious marketing data (however coarse) in exchange for creating a platform where they hang out and stalk their high school crushes. On that count, it’s a mind blowing success.

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Written by fabiorojas

June 7, 2013 at 12:56 am

Posted in fabio, technology

more tweets, more votes – cause or correlation?

A number of people have asked me a very important question about the More Tweets, More Votes paper. Do relative tweet rates merely correlate with elections or is there is a causal link?

The paper itself does not settle the issue. The purpose of the paper is merely to document this striking correlation. Given that qualification, let me explain the argument from both sides and my priors.

  • Correlation: Twitter is a passive record of how excited people are. If a candidate somehow garners the attention of the public, they get excited and start talking about it, which translates into a higher twitter presence.
  • Causal: The unusual attention that a candidate attracts in social media sways undecided or weakly committed voters. In a sense, highly active twitter users are the “opinion leaders” of modern society.

My prior: 75% correlation, 25% cause. How would tease out these arguments? For example, what variable could instrument the district level tweet counts? Interesting to find out.

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Written by fabiorojas

May 15, 2013 at 12:01 am

no sentiment needed – comment on the tweets-vote curve

When people read our More Tweets, More Votes paper, they often wonder – where is the “sentiment analysis?” In other words, why don’t we try to measure whether a tweet is positive or negative? Joe DiGrazia, the lead author, addressed this in a recent interview with techpresident.com:

DiGrazia said the researchers were “kind of surprised” that they saw a correlation without doing sentiment analysis of the Tweets. “We thought we were going to have to look at the sentiment,” he said. He speculated that one reason for the correlation could be a so-called Pollyanna Hypothesis, “that people are more likely to gravitate toward subjects that they are positive about and are more likely to talk about candidates that they support.”

The idea is simply this: the frequency of speech is often a relatively decent approximation of how imporant people think that topic is relative to salient alternatives. If people say “Obama” a little more often than the competition, then it’s not unreasonable to believe that he is more favored. And you don’t need content analysis to suss that out.

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Written by fabiorojas

April 29, 2013 at 3:16 am

more tweets, more votes: social media as a quantitative indicator of political behavior

bigtweet20102012

Unit of analysis: US House elections in 2010 and 2012. X-Axis: (# of tweets mentioning the GOP candidate)/(# of tweets mentioning either major party candidate). Y-axis: GOP margin of victory.

I have a new working paper with Joe DiGrazia*, Karissa McKelvey and Johan Bollen asking if social media data actually forecasts offline behavior. The abstract:

Is social media a valid indicator of political behavior? We answer this question using a random sample of 537,231,508 tweets from August 1 to November 1, 2010 and data from 406 competitive U.S. congressional elections provided by the Federal Election Commission. Our results show that the percentage of Republican-candidate name mentions correlates with the Republican vote margin in the subsequent election. This finding persists even when controlling for incumbency, district partisanship, media coverage of the race, time, and demographic variables such as the district’s racial and gender composition. With over 500 million active users in 2012, Twitter now represents a new frontier for the study of human behavior. This research provides a framework for incorporating this emerging medium into the computational social science toolkit.

The working paper (short!) is here. I’d appreciate your comments.

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* Yes, he’ll be in the market in the Fall.

Written by fabiorojas

April 23, 2013 at 2:41 am

delegitimization as a new world order

Imagine going to the ATM and discovering you can’t withdraw your money because the ATM is out of cash. Not only that, but the bank is closed because of a national holiday so you can’t use the bank teller to withdraw money, electronic transfers of funds are frozen, and the stores refuse to accept credit cards out of concerns that electronic payments won’t be made. If you are able to get to your money, you learn that 6.75% of your funds (or 9.95% if you are a lucky ducky with over 100K euros in your account) will be converted into bank shares under a compulsory levy intended to prop up the banking system. The mortgage payment that you scheduled, the student loan check that you deposited to pay for your education, the vendors that you need to pay for your small business – all are up in the air.

Even if you are told “nevermind, we’re re-evaluating that policy, back to the drawing board!”, what’s the rational thing to do? Most likely, you as a depositor will lose trust in the banking system and pull out as much as you can. If you are in an adjoining country with a shared currency, the mattress, precious metals, and alternate currencies are looking like more attractive places to keep your money. This is the scenario currently unfolding for residents in Cyprus and those who were parking their money in what seemed like a safe haven.

Less than a year ago, Greece was in a similar situation and is still dealing with the consequences. Now, it’s Cyprus’s turn. These supposedly one-off, “unique” situations involving untested interventions are becoming regularities as banking and governance systems around the world are becoming more tightly coupled together. Although Chick Perrow‘s Normal Accidents: Living with High Risk Technologies discusses nuclear plants and chemical plants, his concept of how reactions, once started, are hard to stop (much less understand) in tightly coupled systems, is a helpful read. Add to his concept the erosion of a shared understanding and belief in institutions for a potent mix – that is, the delegitimization processes of trust in banking and governance that we may be seeing in the EU.

For those of us who have been living under the various rocks of committee work/teaching/research/other commitments, a little background reading: Dealbreaker’s take, with plenty of links to others’ analysis, Reuters,and Zero Hedge’s mordant posts.

Written by katherinechen

March 21, 2013 at 2:47 pm

february guest bloggers: john padgett and woody powell

It is my pleasure to announce our February guest bloggers: Woody Powell and John Padgett. Professor Powell is Professor of Education and (by courtesy) Sociology, Organizational Behavior, Management Science and Engineering, Communication, and Public Policy at Stanford University. Professor Padgett is Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago.

Woody and John are both leading figures in the study of organizations and networks. Professor Powell is co-author, with Paul DiMaggio, of the groundbreaking “iron cage” article and then went on to publish a series of highly influential papers in social network analysis. John Padgett is one of political science’s leading formal modellers, having written seminal papers on budgeting & garbage can processes, the courts, and state formation. His most well known work is likely the “Medici paper,” which used network analysis to describe the cultivation of political power in early modern Italy and introduced the idea of “robust action” into modern social theory.

They will be discussing their new book: The Emergence of Organizations and Markets. Here’s a summary:

The social sciences are rich with ideas about how choice occurs among alternatives, but have little to say about the invention of new alternatives in the first place.  These authors directly address the question of emergence, both of what we choose and who we are.  With the use of sophisticated deductive models building on the concept of autocatalysis from biochemistry and rich historical cases studies spanning seven centuries, Padgett and Powell develop a theory of the co-evolution of social networks.  Novelty in new persons and new organizational forms emerges from spillovers across multiple, intertwined networks.  To be sure, actors make relations; but the mantra of this book is that in the long run relations make actors.  Through case studies of early capitalism and state formation, communist economic reforms and transition, and technologically advanced capitalism and science, the authors analyze speciation in the context of organizational novelty.  Drawing on ideas from both the physical sciences and the social sciences, and incorporating novel computational, historical, and network analyses, this book offers a genuinely new approach to the question of emergence.

This week and next week, I’ll post some thoughts that John and Woody have shared with me. This is *required* reading for sociologists, management scholars, political scientists, and economists. And yes, there, will be a quiz!

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Written by fabiorojas

February 5, 2013 at 12:01 am

computer literacy vs. digital natives

The interesting thing about technology is that early adopters tend to be very technical people. The average person who owned a computer in 1982 was probably educated and very interested in technology. A Popular Mechanics reader, if you will. Later, there is nothing remarkable about computer owners. Scientific literacy is not a precondition for computer use.

That leads me to a distinction: computer literacy vs. digital natives. The computer literate is someone who is steeped in the ways of computing. Not a professional engineer, but they approach a computer the way some people approach a car. It’s a machine, you can take it apart, make it do things, and so forth. The digital native is some who is comfortable with computers because they grew up around them. They are consumers of computers, not builders. They know how to use computer, but they can’t really write code or otherwise command a computer. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It should be expected that when a technology is well diffused that it is easy to use and requires little training or knowledge.

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Written by fabiorojas

January 3, 2013 at 12:01 am

Posted in fabio, technology

censorship and repressing social movements

Gary King, Jennifer Pan, and Margaret Roberts have an interesting working paper about the kinds of online content censored by the Chinese government. The big insight is that it’s not dissent that gets you censored in China, it’s efforts to mobilize collective action. From the abstract:

Contrary to previous understandings, posts with negative, even vitriolic, criticism of the state, its leaders, and its policies are not more likely to be censored. Instead, we show that the censorship program is aimed at curtailing collective action by silencing comments that represent, reinforce, or spur social mobilization, regardless of content.

I think this is an illustration of how governments repress social movements in the age of online media. The tactic may be new, but government repression is most certainly not.  Repression has long been considered one of the main components of the political opportunity structure. Challengers who face more repression are less likely to mobilize and form a real movement. I think censorship represses in at least two ways. First, it increases the costs of mobilizing, simply by making it more difficult to transmit information, create free spaces, etc. But second, and perhaps just as important, it sends a clear signal to would-be activists that the government will take action against mobilization efforts. This signal aspect of the opportunity structure creates fear among challengers and hurts their morale. (For further reading about signals as a mechanism of the political opportunity structure, I recommend Meyer and Minkoff [2004] and Cornwall et al. [2007]).

Along these same lines, I encourage you to read this online excerpt from William Dobson’s book, The Dictator’s Learning Curve: Inside the Global Battle for Democracy.  Dobson writes about the Chinese government’s attempt to stifle even the most subtle and symbolic efforts by challengers to instigate collective action in remembrance of the Tianenmen Square massacre.  Since I’m handing out reading assignments, let me also recommend Eugene Morozov’s The Net Delusion,  a critique of the idealists who see online activism as the new democratizing force of society. Although Morozov’s arguments have been somewhat muted by the success of the Arab Spring, he makes an excellent point that dictators and authoritarian governments can also use the Internet against activists, potentially invading their privacy and initiating repressive counter-tactics. It’s a provocative read.

Written by brayden king

June 14, 2012 at 5:35 pm

open innovation, a primer by joel west

Here’s Joel West giving a primer (at Berkeley) on open and user innovation.

Written by teppo

April 2, 2012 at 8:29 pm

getting big stuff done: is this an organizational problem?

I’m a sucker for nutty futurist speculations.  So bear with me on this one.

A few nights ago I was watching Neal Stephenson’s talk on “getting big stuff done,” where he bemoans the lack of aggressive technological progress in the past forty or so years.  There’s obviously some debate about this, though he makes some good points.  He raises the question of why, for example, we haven’t yet built a 20km tall building despite the fact that it appears to be technologically very feasible with extant materials.  Nutty.  But an interesting question.  From a sci-fi writer.

Stephenson ends his talk on an organizational note and asks:

What is going on in the financial and management worlds that has caused us to narrow our scope and reduce our ambitions so drastically?

I like that question.  Even if you think that ambitions have not been lowered, I think all of us would like to see the big problems of the world addressed more aggressively.  (Unless one subscribes to the Leibnizian view that we live in the “best of all possible [organizational] worlds.”)  Surely organization theory is central to this.  This is particularly true in cases where technologies and solutions for big problems seemingly already exist – but it is the social technologies and organizational solutions that appear to be sub-optimal.  So, how can more aggressive forms of collective action and organizational performance be realized?   I don’t see org theorists really wrestling with these types of questions, systematically anyways.  It would be great to see some more wide-eyed speculation about the organizational forms and theories that perhaps might facilitate more aggressive technological, social and human progress.

I can see several reasons for why organization theorists don’t engage with these types of, “futurist” questions.  First, theories of organization tend to lag practice.  That is, organizational scholars describe and explain the world (in its current or past state), though they don’t often engage in speculative forecasting (about possible future states).  Second, many of the organizational sub-fields suited for wide-eyed speculation are in a bit of a lull, or they represent small niches.  For example, organization design isn’t a super “hot” area these days (certainly with exceptions) — despite its obvious importance.  Institutional and environmental theories of organization have taken hold in many parts, and agentic theories are often seen as overly naive.  Environmental and institutional theories of course are valuable, but they delimit and are incremental, and are perhaps just self-fulfilling and thus may not always be practically helpful for thinking about the future.

That’s my (very speculative) two cents.

Written by teppo

March 5, 2012 at 1:06 am

sociology of intellectual property?

I’ve been reading up on intellectual property of late.  Here are some sources worth perusing and reading (some of them can be downloaded for free), along with some interviews and clips.

Interestingly, there isn’t meaningfully any kind of sociology of intellectual property, that I am aware of (feel free to correct me).  Though several of the above scholars do call for increased dialogue between law and the social sciences (e.g., Julie Cohen), though this seems to be a relatively nascent area.

There is of course the “social construction” argument (e.g., that authorship or ownership is a myth)—a favorite argument of mine (e.g., see Beethoven and the Construction of Genius)—or the ubiquitous and tired references to “networks” (help!), but it seems that there is much opportunity in this space.

Written by teppo

March 2, 2012 at 5:43 pm

richard stallman and free software as a social movement

Here are some links about free software as a social movement:

Update:  Jenn Lena adds a link in the comments, a 9000+ word rider on Stallman’s speaking contract.

Written by teppo

December 29, 2011 at 8:36 pm

#ows, the human microphone and hand signals

I’m sort of intrigued by the various innovations emerging from the Occupy Wallstreet Movement (I posted at strategyprofs about some of the tech ones, specifically apps).

One of the cooler, more low-tech innovations (ok, ok, these have been around for a long time – but still) is the use of the “human microphone” – note that the wiki entry was initiated just two weeks ago.  Occupy also has its own hand signals (and, check out the hand signals for consensus decision-making).  Cool.  Twinkles.

Here’s a hand signal tutorial:

Written by teppo

November 3, 2011 at 7:55 pm

psychology of organizational networks

In case readers haven’t seen this, Organization Science has a call for papers out for a special issue on the psychology of organizational networks.  Details can be found by clicking here (pdf).  Or click below the fold.  Read the rest of this entry »

Written by teppo

October 6, 2011 at 7:35 pm

twitter, social science and mood

[link via David Lazer]

Twitter is getting lots of interest from social scientists.  Here’s a piece from the current issue of Science about how “social scientists wade into the tweet stream” (the figure below is from this article).  And, an NPR piece on a forthcoming Science article by Macy and Golder on affect and mood and twitter.

Written by teppo

September 29, 2011 at 11:02 pm

quantified self

There’s lots that is nutty about the Quantified Self movement.  But I love it nonetheless. Here’s the blog, Quantified Self.

And, here’s an example of someone who carefully tracked social interactions, for years.

Written by teppo

August 20, 2011 at 2:03 am

patent trolls and innovation

Other than financial measures (like ROA) I can’t think of another firm-level variable that is more commonly used in organizational studies than patent activity. Patents are used to track everything from innovation to technological niches to social networks among scientists.  Patents are an all-purpose measure because we think they are tightly linked to creativity and knowledge production, the engine that drives both science and capitalist enterprise. But what if this is increasingly not true? What if patent use is becoming decoupled from creativity?

This is one of the questions posed made by last week’s This American Life, my favorite NPR show and one of the most consistently interesting programs of journalism out there. The show talked about patent trolls – companies or individuals who acquire patents for the primary purpose of suing other actors who might use technology that potentially infringes on that patent.  The show focused on the firm, Intellectual Ventures, and its founder Nathan Myhrvoid. Through a couple of interesting vignettes and sly investigations, they showed how the company uses lawsuits, brought by a number of shell companies, to get large settlements out of technology companies, some of which are struggling enterpreneurial groups.  The show demonstrates how, rather than protect and promote innovation, increasingly patents are being used to stifle innovation by wiping out or financially weakening companies that are actually trying to bring innovation to the marketplace. Meanwhile, patent trolls sit on those patents and do nothing to advance the innovations.

This must have some implications for our current understanding of patents as indicators of creativity and innovation. One of the startling revelations in the program was just how much redundancy there is in the patent system. The number of patents issued that cover the same basic function is often in the thousands, especially in the software industry. Patents may be more indicative of turf wars than they are of real innovation.

Even if you’re not a technology scholar, I highly recommend that you listen to the podcast of the show.

Written by brayden king

July 26, 2011 at 8:33 pm

crowdfunding academic research?

I really like what companies like kickstarter are doing — they provide a “crowdfunding”-type platform for artists.  Artists and budding entrepreneurs can post project ideas and needs onto the web site and readers can pledge funds to help realize these projects (based on a threshold funding system).  The projects range from hundreds of thousands of dollars to much smaller ones. (Warning: thumbing through the various projects is pretty addicting.)  The wikipedia site for “crowdfunding” lists other such companies (e.g., kiva.org, sponsume, pledgemusic).

As NSF funding for the social sciences appears to be under threat, it would be great to see a crowdfunding model for academic research as well.  There seem to be lots of potential benefits: a new source of funds could be tapped, researchers wouldn’t have to chase funds as funders might find them instead, new populations would be introduced to research, etc, etc.  Lots of benefits, downsides of course too.

Here’s someone who has thought about some of these issues.

Written by teppo

June 30, 2011 at 6:07 am

philostv and econstoriestv and orgtheorytv?

Pressure seems to be mounting as other disciplines are setting up online “TV stations.”  Philosophy TV (philostv.org) features very engaging discussions between philosophers,  similar in format to bloggingheads.tv (also a favorite).   econstoriestv is a Russ Roberts venture — the site seems to largely be dedicated to the Keynes-Hayek rap videos (perhaps there is a part III to come).  I really like the fact that academic content/discussion is now available in this type of format.  What’s next?  orgtheorytv?

Written by teppo

June 28, 2011 at 5:00 pm

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