The digital age has transformed how we are able to study social behavior. Unfortunately, researchers have not yet taken full advantage of these opportunities because we are too focused on “big data,” such as digital traces of behavior. These big data can be wonderful for some research questions, but they have fundamental limitations for addressing many questions because they were never designed to be used for research. This talk will argue that rather than focusing on “found data”, researchers should use the capabilities of the digital age to create new forms of “designed data.” I’ll provide three templates that researchers can use to combine the strengths of found data and designed data, and I’ll illustrate these templates with recent empirical studies. This talk is based on my forthcoming book—Bit by Bit: Social Research in the Digital Age—which is currently in Open Review at http://www.bitbybitbook.com.
About the speakers
Matthew Salganik is Professor of Sociology at Princeton University, and he is affiliated with several of Princeton’s interdisciplinary research centers: the Office for Population Research, the Center for Information Technology Policy, the Center for Health and Wellbeing, and the Center for Statistics and Machine Learning. His research interests include social networks and computational social science. He is the author of the forthcoming book Bit by Bit: Social Research in the Digital Age.