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the web of commons, a talk by karissa mckelvey

Long time friend Karissa McKelvey talks about solving commons problems in a key note address at Full Stack 2017.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($4.44 – cheap!!!!)/Theory for the Working Sociologist (discount code: ROJAS – 30% off!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street / Read Contexts Magazine– It’s Awesome 

Written by fabiorojas

October 2, 2017 at 4:02 am

congratulations to karissa mckelvey

Guest blogger emeritus Karissa McKelvey just won a huuuge award. Her project just won a Knight Foundation grant. Her team is going to build a search engine that allows people to access data and make sure the data is update. Think of it as Bit Torrent for data, not illegal downloads. Good job!

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($2!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street 

Written by fabiorojas

February 1, 2016 at 12:01 am

data science is engineering – a guest post by karissa mckelvey

This is a guest post by Karissa McKelvey. She is affiliated with the Complex Systems PhD program at Indiana University’s School of Informatics. She works on the intersection of social media and political mobilization and has co-authored papers on Occupy Wall Street and the More Tweets/More Votes phenomenon.

Why Data Science is just a fad, and the future of the academy

We expect students to write research papers as well as do statistics in R or STATA or Matlab on small datasets. Why don’t we expect them to deal with very very large datasets? We are told that “Data Science” is the answer to this “Big Data” problem.

I’d like to redefine Data Science: it is the act of gluing toolkits together to create a pipeline from raw data to information to knowledge.There are no innovations to be made in Data Science. The innovations to be made here are in Computer Science, Informatics, Statistics, Sociology, Visualization, Math, etc. — and they always will be.

Data Science is just engineering.

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Written by fabiorojas

July 10, 2013 at 12:01 am

social media and social science: a chat with garret m. peterson

I was recently interviewed by the Economics Detective Podcast. Garret and I spoke about some general issues when you use social media data in research. Then we focused on three papers:

If you like big data and social science, check it out.


50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($4.44 – cheap!!!!)
A theory book you can understand!!! Theory for the Working Sociologist (discount code: ROJAS – 30% off!!)
The rise of Black Studies:  From Black Power to Black Studies 
Did Obama tank the antiwar movement? Party in the Street
Read Contexts Magazine– It’s Awesome!

Written by fabiorojas

June 28, 2018 at 4:01 am

Posted in uncategorized

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.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: From Black Power/Grad Skool Rulz 

Written by fabiorojas

March 18, 2014 at 12:01 am

you can end gender inequality on orgtheory – today!!

During Festivus, a commenter complained about the gender inequality on this blog. This comes up from time to time. Trust me, I’ve tried to remedy the situation. In the past, I’ve made a conscious effort to invite comparable numbers of guests from all genders. And we’ve had excellent female bloggers. Our permanent crew member Katehrine Chen, Hilary Levy Friedman, Jenn Lena, Leslie Hinkson, Mito Akiyoshi, Brandy Aven, Rhacel Parrenas, Karissa McKelvey, and others. But usually, men are much more likely to accept invitations and post, that’s why the imbalance remains. In Spring 2013, I even put out an open call and I posted *everything* that was sent to me. The result? Two men and one woman.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t try even harder. So here’s the deal: send me something to post. You have a commitment from me. If you send me a post that is social science/management or related to the academic profession (orgtheory’s two main topics), I will post it contingent on light editing and meeting our admittedly low intellectual standards. This helps me by bringing fresh ideas to the blog and it will bring new voices to the soc blogosphere. So if there’s a book you want to comment on, or an article you hate, or a theoretical point that needs to get out there, send it in!!

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: From Black Power/Grad Skool Rulz

Written by fabiorojas

January 11, 2014 at 12:03 am

Posted in blogs, fabio

more tweets, more votes: in foreign policy, PLoS One, and hitting the top 10 list

More Tweets, More Votes news:

  1. I thank Alex Hanna for mentioning this work in a new Foreign Policy piece that discusses how social media can be used to monitor elections in nations where polling is rare, a possibility that I mentioned in my Washington Post article on MTMV. Alex and co-author Kevin Harris use social media data to track Iranian public opinion, because quality polling is not common there. A must read for people who want to see how social media can be used to measure and evaluate democratic processes.
  2. The peer reviewed version of MTMV is now out in PLoS One. The paper presents the tweet share/vote share correlation for the 2010 and 2012 House elections and discusses possible mechanisms.
  3. The working paper version of MTMV at Social Science Research Network has had over 1,200 downloads in its short life, pushing it into the top 10 most downloaded papers on models of elections and political processes at SSRN. Congratulations to my co-authors Joe DiGrazia, Karissa McKelvey, and Johan Bollen. Outstanding work.

Insider tip: New results be presented at the computational social science workshop at the University of Chicago in January 2014. Details forthcoming.

These books cure baldness: From Black Power/Grad Skool Rulz

Written by fabiorojas

December 16, 2013 at 12:01 am

dear sociology: we are having a very special moment

In the movie The Holy Grail, one of the most insightful scenes is when Sir Lancelot charges a castle to save a maiden in distress. What makes it funny is that he charges across this open field for a few minutes and he is completely ignored by the guards. When he finally reaches the castle door, the guards act totally surprised. But of course, they should have seen it coming.

Sociology is having that moment right now. Right now, the territory of the social sciences is under pressure to expand and reshape itself. And we’ve seen this coming for a while. The forces are many. Increasing knowledge of gene-behavior links. The appearance of “Big Data,” which we’ve argued about on this blog. The demand for experiments from the policy world.

There are a few responses. We can simply ignore these trends and continue as usual. That’s what Nicholas Christakis was arguing against in his column. Or, we can uncritically accept them, a position which has some advocates. The response I’d prefer to see is a more thorough engagement, an integration of these issues into the core social sciences. Otherwise, we’ll become the discipline of 20th century theory and methods, not the place that comprehensively looks at social life.

Adverts: From Black Power/Grad Skool Rulz

Written by fabiorojas

July 23, 2013 at 4:03 am

Posted in academia, fabio, just theory

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


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.

Adverts: From Black Power/Grad Skool Rulz

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

Written by fabiorojas

April 23, 2013 at 2:41 am

new occupy wall street paper at PLoS One


My student* Karissa McKelvey has a co-authored a paper on the geography of Occupy Wall Street with Michael Conover, Claytion Davis, Emilio Ferrara, Fillipo Menczer, and Alessandro Flammini. Analyzing Twitter traffic data, The Geospatial Characteristics of a Social Movement Communication Network explores the clustering of OWS in specific urban areas. A nice use of social media and required reading for those interested in recent movement history.

Adverts: From Black Power/Grad Skool Rulz

* Actually, she’s Fil Menczer‘s student, but she’s so awesome I claim her as well since I’m her minor concentration adviser.

Written by fabiorojas

March 12, 2013 at 12:14 am

the case for comparative organizational analysis

One of the key insights I picked up from Jerry’s book (see related posts here, here, and here) is that the large organization is no longer the central unit of society. By saying that a “society of organizations” is dead, Jerry is tackling Perrow’s thesis that large organizations can explain pretty much everything we see in social life. Here is a bit from Perrow’s 1991 paper “A society of organizations.”

I argue that the appearance of large organizations in the United States makes organizations the key phenomenon of our time, and thus politics, social class, economics, technology, religion, the family, and even social psychology take on the character of dependent variables. Their subject matter is conditioned by the presence of organizations to such a degree that, increasingly, since about 1820 in the United States at least, the study of organizations must precede their own inquiries….[I]n my grandest proposition I argue that organizations are the key to society because large organizations have absorbed society. They have vacuumed up a good part of what we have always thought of as society, and made organizations, once a part of society, into a surrogate of society (725-726).

He clarifies further (providing more fuel for Jerry’s fire):

By “large organizations absorbing society” I mean that activities that once were performed by relatively autonomous and usually small informal groups (e.g. family, neighborhood) and small autonomous organizations (small businesses, local government, local church) are now per- formed by large bureaucracies. This is the “pure” case of absorption – the large organization with many employees. As a result, the organization that employs many people can shape their lives in many ways, most of which are quite unobtrusive and subtle, and alternative sources of shaping in the community decline (726).

It is this last aspect that has changed the most. If public corporations have been broken up into their constituent parts, the large organization (i.e., the large employer), no longer exists as it once did. What is it replaced with?  While we know that businesses have become disaggregated into smaller units of larger supply chains, like interchangeable Lego parts, the characteristics of those organizations are fairly unexplored.

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Written by brayden king

September 21, 2009 at 10:44 pm

Posted in books, brayden, just theory

organization theory must-read articles


Gordon at the Conglomerate sent me an email a while back requesting the “must-reads” of organization theory.  I think there are several important overview-type books (e.g., see this post on relevant books for example by Scott and Pfeffer), and several classic theory-building books (e.g., see this post on Cyert and March; of course March and Simon, Coleman, Hannan and Freeman, Barnard, McKelvey, Williamson, Weick, etc), but let me here just stick to journal articles (which in part delimits my set to the past 40 years or so).  For now just an alphabetical list of organization theory must-read articles:

Meyer, John and Brian Rowan. 1977. “Institutionalized Organizations: Formal Structure

Meyer, John and Brian Rowan. 1977. “Institutionalized Organizations: Formal Structure

as Myth and Ceremony.” American Journal of Sociology 83: 340-63.

  • Coleman, J. 1986. Social theory, social research, and a theory of action.  American Journal of Sociology, 91: 1309-1335.
  • DiMaggio, P. & Powell, W. 1983. The iron cage revisited: Institutional isomorphism and collective rationality in organizational fields.  American Sociological Review, 48: 147-160.
  • Granovetter, M. 1985. Economic and social action: The problem of embeddedness. American Journal of Sociology, 91: 481-518.
  • Lawrence & Lorsch. 1967. Differentiation and integration in complex organizations. Administrative Science Quarterly, 12: 1-47.
  • Levitt, B. & March, J. 1988. Organizational learning. Annual Review of Sociology, 14: 319-340.
  • March, J. 1991. Exploration and exploitation in organizational learning.  Organization Science, 2: 71-87.
  • Meyer, J. & Rowan, B. 1977. Institutionalized organizations: Formal structure as myth and ceremony.  American Journal of Sociology, 83: 333-363.
  • Powell, W.W., Koput, K.W., & Smith-Doerr, L. 1996.  Interorganizational collaboration and the locus of innovation: Network of learning in biotechnology. Administrative Science Quarterly, 41: 116-145.
  • Walsh, J. 1995. Managerial and organizational cognition: Notes from a trip down memory lane. Organization Science, 6: 280-321.
  • Williamson, O. 1977. Transaction-cost economics: The governance of contractual relations.  Journal of Law and Economics, 22: 233-261.

(For a more comprehensive list of key pieces and theories – see this extensive doctoral readings list by Andy Van de Ven.)

This list is probably not that controversial (the above articles ought to show up in anyone’s top 50 [ok, maybe 100], and these articles tend to be among the most highly cited.  Admittedly “learning” shows up too prevalently given my own research interests, institutional approaches also appear to fair rather well, and, if I consider “strategy” articles – the list would obviously be quite different [Barney, Teece, etc. etc.).  Well, I’ll provide a much more controversial, ‘alternative’ list in a later post (i.e. my “classics” – for example, I am partial to these type of pieces, or these types).  

Written by teppo

December 18, 2006 at 7:16 am

Posted in research, teppo

mackenzie seminar – fat tails and extremes


(Here’s a quick intermediate post on our online seminar-chen, while I stew on a more general, forthcoming post[s] on “performativity”).

One of the interesting tales in MacKenzie’s book focuses on the polymath Benoit Mandelbrot (here’s his wiki entry). He burst onto the finance and economics scene seemingly from nowhere and radically, for a while, influenced the thinking of Fama, Merton Miller and the Chicago School. Mandelbrot argued that stock return distributions scarcely were normal, but rather they had fat tails, thus in effect challenging the basic assumptions (and findings) of most empirical analysis in finance. In short, there were (and are) plenty of extremes and that matters, a lot. Mandelbrot seemingly had a good run, but given data that highlighted more normal outcomes over longer time periods, and apparent problems in statistically modeling extremes, he disappeared from the finance scene in the early 7os (retreating to math and chaos theory). However, he returned to finance in 1987, perhaps in part vindicated by that year’s market crash.

(Here’s a great 80-minute lecture by Mandelbrot himself on these matters).

I highlighted the issue of extremes and organization theory in a previous post – Bill McKelvey has introduced and of late heavily pushed the matter – the best, quick primer is his Strategic Organization piece with P. Andriani, or he also has a nice, recent book chapter with Joel Baum. The strong argument is that given our Gaussian methods we are in essence wrong, the softer version suggests that we simply need to be sensitive to the matter of extremes (rather than ignoring them). I think that it is safe to say that the matter of extremes will first have to play out in disciplines such as the natural sciences and economics before it diffuses further into organization theory, at least empirically anyway, though I think some of the theoretical intuition (and that of course is much more important than “just data”) already has, and will continue to, heavily influence how we think about organizations, particularly in strategic management.

Written by teppo

November 7, 2006 at 9:10 am

Posted in books, economics, research, teppo

extremes and management research


One of the more interesting presentations that I saw at the Academy of Management earlier this week was given by Joel Baum and Bill McKelvey – their presentation was titled “Analysis of Extremes in Management Studies.” (The associated book chapter can be found in David Ketchen and Donald Bergh’s [eds.] volume three [2006] of Research Methodology in Strategy and Management.)

In short, the authors argue that the present focus on Gaussian averages in our research fundamentally misspecifies our theoretical and empirical efforts in management theory, as in practice it is the extremes (power laws), not averages, that prove more important. Many of our key methodology guides, they argue, such as Greene’s widely used Econometric Analysis, are largely devoted to trying to ‘normalize’ data, though this very act creates significant methodological problems. I have heard Bill McKelvey boldly proclaim (at the Organization Science conference last year) that most of what gets published in organization theory and strategy journals is fundamentally wrong given this ‘problem’ of extremes (now, that is a bold claim).

I buy the argument, for the most part anyway. Specifically, related to this problem I have long held that what we should be focusing on in organizations is not ‘the routine,’ but rather on the exceptions. While much of what happens in organizations is average and routine, how the exceptions and “the new” are handled prove significantly more important to overall organizational outcomes. Our research tends to focus on programmatic behavior, and, our methods further propagate the problem with their general normalized and linear Gaussian ethos. Furthermore, and more practically, managers also live in a world of extremes, and we ought to perhaps have something relevant to say to them as well (though, that said, I am still sympathetic to the notion that management research is a basic discipline, a couple steps removed from “practical implications”).

Baum and McKelvey’s chapter gives all kinds of examples of extremes and their associated consequences – from earthquakes to Florence Griffith Joyner to terrorism. Interesting. One proposed application of focusing on extremes in management theory was the detection of fraud based on extreme outcomes. Beyond that, though, the next steps for understanding extremes in management and organization theory seem ripe for further investigation. That is, Baum and McKelvey’s chapter I think is fairly convincing in showing the need to take extremes seriously, specifically by highlighting their existence and consequences in other disciplines, but next steps are needed. Management research could now use some articles highlighting – how specifically does the analysis change when extremes are properly accounted for (one might for example run some old data and show the consequences of using a power law-type versus Gaussian model), what are the central elements of a research agenda which puts extremes at its core look like? And, most importantly (in my mind anyway), much of the focus in extremes is heavily data-driven – what specifically are the theoretical implications?

Written by teppo

August 19, 2006 at 7:16 am

Posted in research, strategy, teppo