Archive for the ‘mere empirics’ Category
Within informatics, there is a healthy body of research showing how social media data can be used for forecasting future consumption. The latest is from a study by Nielsen, which shows some preliminary evidence that Twitter activity forecasts television program popularity. In their model, adding Twitter data increases the explained variance in how well a TV show will in addition to data on promotions and network type. Here’s the summary from Adweek.
Before the holiday, we asked – what should computational sociologists know? In this post, I’ll discuss what sociology programs can do:
- Hire computational sociologists. Except for one or two cases, computational sociologists have had a very tough time finding jobs in soc programs, especially the PhD programs. That has to change, or else this will be quickly absorbed by CS/informatics. We should have an army of junior level computational faculty but instead the center of gravity is around senior faculty.
- Offer courses: This is a bit easier to do, but sociology lags behind. Every single sociology program at a serious research university, especially those with enginerring programs should offer undergrad and grad courses.
- Certificates and minors: Aside from paperwork, this is easy. Hand out credentials for a bundle of soc and CS courses.
- Hang out: I have learned so much from hanging out with the CS people. It’s amazing.
- Industry: This deserves its own post, but we need to develop a model for interacting with industry. Right now, sociology’s model is: ignore it if we can, lose good people to industry, and repeat. I’ll offer my own ideas next week about how sociology can fruitfully interact with the for profit sector.
Add your own ideas in the comments.
My co-bloggers are on a roll. Zynep Tufekci and Brayden King have an op-ed in the New York Times on the topic of privacy and data:
UBER, the popular car-service app that allows you to hail a cab from your smartphone, shows your assigned car as a moving dot on a map as it makes its way toward you. It’s reassuring, especially as you wait on a rainy street corner.
Less reassuring, though, was the apparent threat from a senior vice president of Uber to spend “a million dollars” looking into the personal lives of journalists who wrote critically about Uber. The problem wasn’t just that a representative of a powerful corporation was contemplating opposition research on reporters; the problem was that Uber already had sensitive data on journalists who used it for rides.
Buzzfeed reported that one of Uber’s executives had already looked up without permission rides taken by one of its own journalists. Andaccording to The Washington Post, the company was so lax about such sensitive data that it even allowed a job applicant to view people’s rides, including those of a family member of a prominent politician. (The app is popular with members of Congress, among others.)
Near the end of James Heckman’s lecture on the scholarly legacy of Gary Becker, Heckman argued that Becker was a fine addition to the legacy of “Chicago economics.” He didn’t mean that Becker was a monetarist – the “Chicago school” of Friedman and his followers. Instead, he meant that Becker fit in well with the long tradition of great Chicago economic thinkers including not only free marketers (like Friedman) but also liberals (Paul Douglas), socialists (Oscar Lange), and weirdos (Thorstein Veblen). But what does that mean? Here is what it means:
- People know the whole field of economics, they aren’t just narrow specialists.
- Economics is not a parlor game. It is important.
- Empirical work is important and it is not devalued.
Thumbs up. But let me extend it. This Chicago attitude should extend to the whole of social sciences. People ask me, for example, why I was so damn harsh on the critical realists and the post-modernists. Why? Because what I do is important. It is empirical and it reflects what I’ve learned from absorbing the hard earned lessons of my predecessors. So when I see scholarship sink into a miasma of words, or the toy tinkering with cuteonomics, I can only conclude that the person is here to play games, not figure out how the world works. Excuse me while I get back to work.
Here in the non-Buffalo part of upstate New York, we just got our first big snow dump of the year. Okay, it was seven inches, not sixty, but enough to create that Winter Wonderland effect. Fortunately for us, my family’s not traveling till Saturday, so we’re not stuck in an airport or behind an accident on the interstate, but watching from our cozy living room.
Last year, we were living in central New Jersey. It’s only 3 1/2 hours to the south, but what a world of difference in terms of weather. 2013-14 was one of the ten snowiest winters in NJ, but it was still a bit less snowy than an average winter in Albany. (And Albany only gets two-thirds the snow of Buffalo, and just over half that of Syracuse.)
The big difference, of course, is that Albany is prepared for 60 inches of snow a year. Central New Jersey is not.
So, you know, we did all the things that northerners do when faced with the obvious weakness of those in more southerly climes — mostly mock them for closing things down at the first indication of snow. Of course, we realize that that’s just compensating for the fact that we live somewhere with six months of winter, but we’ll take what we can get.
Anyway, there was a map going around last winter that showed the inches of snow at which school is typically canceled in various places in the U.S. (It originally came from an awesome sounding Reddit called MapPorn.)