Title of talk: Disciplining Interpretation: Machine Learning Approaches to Studying Cultural Change
Abstract: Understanding cultural change is a central goal of both sociologists of culture and communications scholars. But the study of meaning structures poses two unique challenges that students of human groups and organizations do not confront. First, because the boundaries around meaning structures are neither physical nor strongly institutionalized, one must construct the object of study. Second, one must simultaneously study change in its prevalence and distribution, on the one hand (for example, change in the percentage and type of people who subscribe to “conservative” or “liberal” political viewpoints) and, on the other, change in the content of the meaning structure itself (for example, change over time in what it means to call someone a “conservative” or a “liberal”). The lecture describes research employing topic modeling, a machine-learning approach to analyzing large textual corpora, to track change over time in press coverage of government support for the arts in the United States during a period in which such support became politically contentious.
About Paul DiMaggio
Paul DiMaggio is Professor of Sociology. He received his B.A. from Swarthmore College and his Ph.D. in Sociology from Harvard University.
DiMaggio’s research interests include formal and informal organization, sociology of economic markets, social implications of information technology, and theory and methods in the sociology of culture. His recent papers have addressed the impact of network externalities on social inequality, the effects of Internet use on wages, applications of topic models to the study of culture, and the emergence of cultural hierarchy in 19th century Chicago. Recent books include The Twentieth-First Century Firm: Changing Economic Organization in International Perspective (edited), Art in the Lives of Immigrant Communities in the U.S. (edited with Patricia Fernandez-Kelly), and Organizzare la cultura: Imprenditoria, istitutzioni e beni culturali.
DiMaggio was previously Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs at Princeton University, where he served as Graduate Director and Chair in the Sociology Department, directed the Center for the Study of Social Organization, and co-directed the Center for Arts and Cultural Policy Studies. At Yale, he was a faculty member in Sociology and the School of Management, and directed the Program on Non-Profit Organizations. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Academy of Political and Social Science; has been a visiting fellow at the Russell Sage Foundation and the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences; has held a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship; and has received Princeton University’s Graduate Mentoring Prize.