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Summary

This is a seminar course. By reading and discussing an introductory book as well as research papers about computational social science, students will become familiar with core issues and techniques in the field.

Content

Data collected through digital systems, such as online social networks, search engines, mobile phones, apps, etc., offer great opportunities for addressing important research questions about individual as well as collective human behavior. Whereas such issues had previously been studied primarily by social scientists, the sheer size of modern social data sets, as well as the fact that they are produced within computational systems, requires computational ways of thinking about, and processing, them.

The goal of this seminar is to acquaint students with some of the fundamental questions and techniques arising in the context of computational social science.

We will explore the above topics simultaneously in two ways:

  • We will read the book Bit by Bit: Social Research in the Digital Age by Matthew Salganik (available online for free).
  • We will read research papers from computational social science that provide a deep dive into the topics(s) discussed in the book.

Every week, we will focus on one book chapter and one accompanying paper (and sometimes additional complementary materials). All students will write a short summary and review of the respective paper, and one student will lead the in-class discussion, which will be about the paper as well as the book chapter etc. Beyond familiarizing themselves with research in the field, students will become better at assessing and critiquing scholarly work (by discussing and reviewing papers).

Through this course, students will obtain an overview of the research questions posed in computational social science, and of the tools and techniques available. Moreover, they will increase their ability to summarize and critique scientific papers.

Previous years: 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017.

Logistics

  • Coursebook listing
  • Time: Tuesays, 10:15 – 12:00, 23 February – 1 June 2021
  • Location: The course will be held entirely online, on Zoom: https://epfl.zoom.us/j/369191740 (passcode: 811811)
  • Paper reviews should be submitted via EasyChair by Sunday 23:59
  • Everybody is welcome to join us as a guest in reading and discussing the papers listed below (for as many or few papers as they like)!

Schedule

  • Weekly themes and chapter numbers refer to the Bit by Bit book.
  • Weekly readings include the book chapter from Bit by Bit and the weekly paper (and additional materials where indicated). Chapters should be read fully by the first week in which a chapter is discussed.
  • Discussion leaders should guide a discussion about the paper as well as the more general context provided by the book chapter (and any additional material they deem worthy of talking about).
  • To make things easier, here are all papers in a single zip file.

Week 1 (23 February)

Introduction and logistics [slides]

Week 2: Observing behavior (chapter 2) (2 March)

Discussion leader: Martin Josifoski

Week 3: Observing behavior (chapter 2) (9 March)

Discussion leader: Alexandre Fauquette

Also read chapter 4 of Judea Pearl, Dana Mackenzie: The Book of Why, Basic Books, 2018 (no review required).

Week 4: Observing behavior (chapter 2) (16 March)

Discussion leader: Michael Sudarkasa

Also read chapter 5 of Paul R. Rosenbaum: Observation and Experiment, Harvard University Press, 2017 (no review required).

Week 5: Observing behavior (chapter 2) (23 March)

Discussion leader: Sandra Siby

Also read chapter 6 of Paul R. Rosenbaum: Observation and Experiment, Harvard University Press, 2017 (no review required).

Week 6: Observing behavior (chapter 2) (30 March)

Discussion leader: Yann Yasser Haddad

Week 7 (6 April)

No meeting (Easter week)

Week 8: Asking questions (chapter 3) (13 April)

Discussion leader: Maria Gaci

Week 9: Running experiments (chapter 4) (20 April)

Discussion leader: Prabhu Teja Sivaprasad

Week 10: Running experiments (chapter 4) (27 April)

Discussion leader: Marija Šakota

Also read chapters 1 and 2 of Paul R. Rosenbaum: Observation and Experiment, Harvard University Press, 2017 (no review required).

Week 11: Running experiments (chapter 4) (4 May)

Discussion leader: Vinitra Swamy

Also read chapters 3 and 4 of Paul R. Rosenbaum: Observation and Experiment, Harvard University Press, 2017 (no review required).

Week 12 (11 May)

To be determined, depending on number of students enrolled

Week 13: Creating mass collaboration (chapter 5) (18 May)

Discussion leader: Haeeun Kim

Week 14: Creating mass collaboration (chapter 5) (25 May)

Discussion leader: William Andrew Simon

Week 15: Ethics (chapter 6) (1 June)

Discussion leader: Zhen Wei