Professor in Political Science and Computer and Information Science

David Lazer

Computational Social Science

Big Data: big insights into human behavior

One of the emerging memes of recent years has been around “big data”—the development of very large data sets around many domains. In the area of human behavior, there are these vast reservoirs of information about our lives that have accumulated, in everywhere from our inboxes to cellular phone companies to credit card companies, to the Internet, where a large fraction of all human expression is now taking place for all to see.

These data must surely offer awesome insights into both individual and human behavior, and our perspective on both will change as a result.

Computational Social Science: Publications List

Publications list

N. Cao, Y. Lin, X. Sun, D. Lazer, S. Liu and H. Qu, “Whisper: Tracing the Spatiotemporal Process of Information Diffusion in Real Time,” IEEE Information Visualization 2012, (also forthcoming in IEEETransactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics).

Y. Lin, J. Bagrow, and D. Lazer, “More Voices than Ever? Quantifying Media Bias in Networks,” ICWSM-11, Barcelona, 2011.

A Madan, S. Moturu, D. Lazer, and A Pentland “Social Sensing: Obesity, unhealthy Eating and Exercise in Face-to-face Networks”, proceedings of ACM Wireless Health 2010, San Diego, 2010.

A Madan, M. Cebrian, D. Lazer, and A. Pentland “Social Sensing to Model Epidemiological Behavior Change”, Proceedings of ACM Ubicomp 2010, Copenhagen (Nominated for Best Paper), 2010.

N. Eagle, A. Pentland, and D. Lazer, “Inferring friendship structure using mobile phone data,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, August 17, 2009.

D. Lazer, I. Mergel, and A. Friedman, “Co-citation of prominent social network articles in sociology journals: The evolving canon,” Connections, April, 2009.

D. Lazer, A. Pentland, L. Adamic, S. Aral, A-L Barabasi, D. Brewer, N. Christakis, N. Contractor, J. Fowler, M. Gutmann, T. Jebara, G. King, M. Macy, D. Roy, and M. Van Alstyne “Computational Social Science,” Science, February 6, 2009. 

J.-P. Onnela, J. Saramäki, J. Hyvönen, G. Szabó, D. Lazer, K. Kaskil, J. Kertész, and A.-L. Barabási,  “Structure and tie strengths in mobile communication networks,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, May 1, 2007.

Peer Reviewed Computer Science Conference
Publication date: 
02/2016
Authors: 
David Lazer
Oren Tsur
Tina Eliassi-Rad

"Man is by nature a political animal," as asserted by Aristotle. This political nature manifests itself in the data we produce and the traces we leave online. In this tutorial, we address a number of fundamental issues regarding mining of political data: What types of data would be considered political? What can we learn from such data? Can we use the data for prediction of political changes, etc?

Keywords: 
computational social science
political data
social and information networks
graph mining.
Journal Article
Publication date: 
05/2014
Authors: 
Yu-Ru Lin
Brian Keegan
Drew B. Margolin
David Lazer

"Media events" generate conditions of shared attention as many users simultaneously tune in with the dual screens of broadcast and social media to view and participate. We examine how collective patterns of user behavior under conditions of shared attention are distinct from other "bursts" of activity like breaking news events.

Journal Article
Publication date: 
07/2014
Authors: 
Jukka-Pekka Onnela
Benjamin N. Waber
Alex `Sandy' Pentland
Sebastian Schnorff
David Lazer

Research on human social interactions has traditionally relied on self-reports. Despite their widespread use, self-reported accounts of behaviour are prone to biases and necessarily reduce the range of behaviours, and the number of subjects, that may be studied simultaneously. The development of ever smaller sensors makes it possible ot study group-level human behaviour in naturalistic settings outside research laboratories.

Journal Article
Publication date: 
10/2014
Authors: 
Yu-Ru Lin
Drew B. Margolin
David Lazer

Developing technologies that support collaboration requires understanding how knowledge and expertise are shared and distributed among community members. We explore two forms of knowledge distribution structures, coordination and cooperation, that are central to successful collaboration. We propose a novel method for detecting the coordination of strategic communication among members of political communities.

Keywords: 
semantic burst
semantic convergence
burst detection
coordination
cooperation
social networks
Journal Article
Publication date: 
07/2013
Authors: 
Yaniv Altshuler
Michael Fire
Erez Shmueli
Yuval Elovici
Alfred Bruckstein
Alex `Sandy' Pentland
David Lazer

This paper develops a methodology to aggregate signals in a network regarding some hidden state of the world. We argue that focusing on edges around hubs will under certain circumstances amplify the faint signals disseminating in a network, allowing for more efficient detection of that hidden state.

Journal Article
Publication date: 
09/2016
Authors: 
Wei Wang
Ryan P. Kennedy
David Lazer
Naren Ramakrishnan

There have been serious efforts over the past 40 years to use newspaper articles to create global scale databases of events occurring in every corner of the world, to help understand and shape responses to global problems.

Journal Article
Publication date: 
04/2015
Authors: 
Ryan P. Kennedy
Brian Keegan
Eric Forbush
David Lazer

This article advocates a lesson plan for introductory comparative politics and election courses. The authors argue that Wikipedia (yes, Wikipedia) provides a unique platform for improving learning outcomes and a useful social good from traditional student papers on elections.

Journal Article
Publication date: 
05/2015
Authors: 
Jameson L. Toole
Yu-Ru Lin
Erich Muehlegger
Daniel Shoag
Marta C Gonzalez
David Lazer

Can data from mobile phones be used to observe economic shocks and their consequences at multiple scales? Here we present novel methods to detect mass layoffs, identify individuals affected by them and predict changes in aggregate unemployment rates using call detail records (CDRs) from mobile phones.

Keywords: 
unemployment
computational social science
social networks
mobility
complex systems
Journal Article
Publication date: 
05/2015
Authors: 
David Lazer

Humanity is in the early stages of the rise of social algorithms: programs that size us up, evaluate what we want, and provide a customized experience. This quiet but epic paradigm shift is fraught with social and policy implications. The evolution of Google exemplifies this shift.