Duncan Watts is principal research scientist at Yahoo! Research, where he directs the Human Social Dynamics group.
Although internet-based research still faces serious methodological and procedural obstacles, Duncan proposes that the ability to study truly ‘social’ dynamics at individual-level resolution will have dramatic consequences for social science. To illustrate this, he will describe four examples of research that would have been extremely difficult, or even impossible, to perform just a decade ago:
* Using email exchange to track social networks evolving in time
* Using a web-based experiment to study the collective consequences of social influence on decision making
* Using a social networking site to study the difference between perceived and actual homogeneity of attitudes among friends
* Using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk to study the incentives underlying ‘crowd sourcing’