Digital Technologies, Computational Tools, and the Analysis of Social Change
Technological breakthroughs tend to inspire claims of their revolutionary nature. It was the case with the printing press, the telegraph, the telephone, the radio and, most recently, the internet and the web. Technology, history tells us, is both a source of social change and an aid to its promoters; it is also (if more soberly) a measurement instrument that helps us, scholars, decode the logic of social life and map its hidden structure. In this talk, I will consider examples of how digital technologies are shifting the way in which we think about social change, reclaiming the importance of communication to understand phenomena like diffusion, mobilization, and large-scale coordination – problems that lie at the heart of social thought since, at least, 19th century debates (back when the telegraph was as revolutionary as the internet is today). The studies I will consider analyze communication as an enabler of social mobilization and use computational tools to offer new theoretical insights on the structure, rhythms, and reach of collective action efforts. Digital technologies might not be the first tools to revolutionize the way in which we communicate; but they are encouraging us to push further our understanding of the forces that drive social change.
About Sandra González-Bailón
Sandra González-Bailón is an Assistant Professor at the Annenberg School for Communication, and affiliated faculty at the Warren Center for Network and Data Sciences. Professor Gonzalez-Bailon's research areas include social media, political protests, mobilization dynamics, online social networks, information diffusion, automated text analysis, and public opinion. Prior to joining Penn, she was a Research Fellow at the Oxford Internet Institute (2008-2013), where she is now a Research Associate. She completed her doctoral degree in Nuffield College (University of Oxford) and her undergraduate studies at the University of Barcelona. Her research lies at the intersection of network science, data mining, computational tools, and political communication. She leads the research group DiMeNet –acronym for Digital Media, Networks, and Political Communication.