October 27, 2007

Windows on the Social Life of the Mind

I broke down and submitted a paper to the Social Information Processing symposium; we'll see what the referees think of it. (I only submitted this to arxiv.org's "Computers and Society" category, and do not know how it got cross-listed under "Physics and Society".)

CRS, "Social Media as Windows on the Social Life of the Mind", arxiv:0710.4911
Abstract: This is a programmatic paper, marking out two directions in which the study of social media can contribute to broader problems of social science: understanding cultural evolution and understanding collective cognition. Under the first heading, I discuss some difficulties with the usual, adaptationist explanations of cultural phenomena, alternative explanations involving network diffusion effects, and some ways these could be tested using social-media data. Under the second I describe some of the ways in which social media could be used to study how the social organization of an epistemic community supports its collective cognitive performance.

Long-time readers will probably not find much that's new in it, but it did force me to finally implement the model of neutral cultural diffusion in assortative social networks I've had in mind for about two years. The simulation (code available on request) confirmed that homophily plus diffusion together tend to make social types correlate with cultural traits, just as though there were some actual causal or expressive connection between the two. That needs to be another paper on its own, which will I dare say entail re-writing the simulation in something other than Perl.

Also, driven by peer pressure and not wanting to feel too much like the eunuch in the bordello, I went and got an account on del.icio.us and Facebook, to go with the ones on LibraryThing and (thanks, Aaron!) Dopplr. I share this in part as a warning: if I'm using them, they're about to become terribly, terribly unfashionable (if they haven't already).

The Collective Use and Evolution of Concepts; Networks; Complexity; Self-Centered

Posted at October 27, 2007 16:00 | permanent link

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