Kitts in CSSI Friday at 12:30

Rethinking Social Networks in the Era of Computational Social Science

James Kitts
Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Friday, April 5, 2019 • 12:30-2:00PM (lunch served at 12:15)
Computer Science Building • Room 150/151

Abstract — Social network analysis has proliferated throughout the social sciences over the past 50 years. In a recent paper I have argued that this work has conceptualized ‘social ties’ in four fundamentally different ways – as socially constructed role relations such as friendship or co-authorship; interpersonal sentiments such as liking or hatred; behavioral interactions such as communication or scholarly citations; or access to information or other resources. In this presentation I will discuss the interplay of these concepts, consider where ties (and non-ties) are likely to match across these four domains, and thus assess where we may apply theories based on one network concept (e.g., sentiment ties of liking and disliking) to data representing another (e.g., interaction as logs of e-mails sent). I will then discuss some empirical lenses emerging from computational social science, such as wearable sensors, location-aware devices, online calendars, logs of phone calls, e-mails, or online transactions. I hope to inspire an interdisciplinary conversation about how these time-stamped event series correspond to the social science concepts of social networks above. The associated paper is available at this link. 

Bio — James Kitts is a professor of sociology and was a founding co-director of the Computational Social Science Institute at UMass. He earned his Ph.D. from Cornell University in 2001 and previously held faculty appointments at Columbia University, Dartmouth College, and the University of Washington. Bridging computational social science, sociology, and public health, James has worked on methods for detecting networks of social interaction using wearable sensors, analyzed the network dynamics of adolescent friendships and inter-hospital patient transfers, modeled opinion polarization on influence networks, and conducted field research on dietary norms in networks of militant vegans. He is Principal Investigator on an NIH R01 grant investigating peer influence in health behavior on adolescent social networks in four urban middle schools, a collaboration with CSSI colleagues John Sirard of Kinesiology (Co-PI), Mark Pachucki of Sociology, and Krista Gile of Mathematics & Statistics, along with Lindiwe Sibeko of Nutrition.