Things to do in week 6

There is a very short introductory reading this week for the theme, computational social science. While we have been looking at how to exploit some of the social media platforms that have emerged in recent years, the data that they have helped to generate is amenable to forms of analysis that are different to the conventional methods of the social sciences. The intention of including this theme is simply to draw your attention to it and encourage you to explore a couple of examples. To treat the topic properly would require a whole course or more. So this is very much a taster to add to your collection of methods.

Once you have a sense of what these new approaches to doing social science are, take some time to explore the We feel site. We feel1 was developed by the CSIRO.

An older and perhaps familiar to you example is offered by Gapminder. It might be thought of more as a clever instance of data visualisation but it, to me, falls under the theme. The background to this work is well worth a watch if you have the time. It is a TED talk. Hans Rosling who did this work is something of a showman. The application he developed with others, Gapminder can be run via a browser or as an app.

Apart from familiarising yourself with these two examples, it's important to allow your thinking about your own agenda to be tweaked a little by these ideas, not that you want to suddenly drop everything and do this kind of work but that these different ways of thinking can contribute to the mix of ideas for your own agenda.

As is often the case, new approaches to doing social science research emerge outside the academy. This is particularly true for computational social science. All the noise about big data and data analytics, data visualisation and such has most of its origins business, the military and bureaucracy. Of course these often overlap with the academy, usually in the form of research grants.

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