CSS Workshop Mission

As human activities increasingly migrate online, new forms of data emerge as traces of digital activity. Researchers are only beginning to understand the implications of this transition, and how models, methods, and questions in social science may be transformed as a result of it. Our Rackham Interdisciplinary Workshop would bring together a multidisciplinary community to undertake a study of the emerging field of Computational Social Science. We will couple learning about the data and methods germane to this area with discussion of their limitations, biases, and potential. Among our three collaborators we have an MS in computer science, an MA in statistics, and a decade of experience in technology­ heavy industry and research environments. We also recognize the importance of a critical perspective: What types of data, behaviors, or people are excluded in research using Big Data? How can we create alliances with data ­holding private companies and how might that change the research process? How can academics collaboratively build our own digital platforms to collect data and how can those platforms be validated? How can new forms of data contribute to theoretical conversations on poverty, democracy, efficiency, and power? Do these new data require new modeling frameworks, different from what has been historically used to analyze survey and administrative data? We propose to combine an examination of techniques and published research with constructive discussions of student research. Our aim is to build a constructive environment where students and faculty can learn about this new field, and talk through potential limitations and unresolved issues. In the coming years, Computational Social Science will greatly influence the pantheon of qualitative and quantitative methods.