Computational social science refers to the academic sub-disciplines concerned with computational approaches to the social sciences. This means that computers are used to model, simulate, and analyze social phenomena. Fields include computational economics, computational sociology, cliodynamics, culturomics, and the automated analysis of contents, in social and traditional media. It focuses on investigating social and behavioral relationships and interactions through social simulation, modeling, network analysis, and media analysis.
Social science is a category of academic disciplines concerned with society and the relationships among individuals within a society. The disciplines include, but are not limited to: anthropology, archaeology, communication studies, economics, history, musicology, human geography, jurisprudence, linguistics, political science, psychology, public health, and sociology. The term is also sometimes used to refer specifically to the field of sociology, the original "science of society", established in the 19th century. For a more detailed list of sub-disciplines within the social sciences see: Outline of social science.
Computational economics is a research discipline at the interface of computer science, economics, and management science. This subject encompasses computational modeling of economic systems, whether agent-based, general-equilibrium, macroeconomic, or rational-expectations, computational econometrics and statistics, computational finance, computational tools for the design of automated internet markets, programming tool specifically designed for computational economics and the teaching of computational economics. Some of these areas are unique, while others extend traditional areas of economics by solving problems that are tedious to study without computers and associated numerical methods.
Computational sociology is a branch of sociology that uses computationally intensive methods to analyze and model social phenomena. Using computer simulations, artificial intelligence, complex statistical methods, and analytic approaches like social network analysis, computational sociology develops and tests theories of complex social processes through bottom-up modeling of social interactions.
There are two terminologies that relate to each other: Social Science Computing (SSC) and Computational Social Science (CSS). In literature, CSS is referred to the field of social science that uses the computational approaches in studying the social phenomena. On the other hand, SSC is the field in which computational methodologies are created to assist in explanations of social phenomena.
Computational social science revolutionizes both fundamental legs of the scientific method: empirical research, especially through big data, by analyzing the digital footprint left behind through social online activities; and scientific theory, especially through computer simulation model building through social simulation.It is a multi-disciplinary and integrated approach to social survey focusing on information processing by means of advanced information technology. The computational tasks include the analysis of social networks, social geographic systems, social media content and traditional media content.
The scientific method is an empirical method of acquiring knowledge that has characterized the development of science since at least the 17th century. It involves careful observation, applying rigorous skepticism about what is observed, given that cognitive assumptions can distort how one interprets the observation. It involves formulating hypotheses, via induction, based on such observations; experimental and measurement-based testing of deductions drawn from the hypotheses; and refinement of the hypotheses based on the experimental findings. These are principles of the scientific method, as distinguished from a definitive series of steps applicable to all scientific enterprises.
Empirical research is research using empirical evidence. It is a way of gaining knowledge by means of direct and indirect observation or experience. Empiricism values such research more than other kinds. Empirical evidence can be analyzed quantitatively or qualitatively. Quantifying the evidence or making sense of it in qualitative form, a researcher can answer empirical questions, which should be clearly defined and answerable with the evidence collected. Research design varies by field and by the question being investigated. Many researchers combine qualitative and quantitative forms of analysis to better answer questions which cannot be studied in laboratory settings, particularly in the social sciences and in education.
"Big data" is a field that treats ways to analyze, systematically extract information from, or otherwise deal with data sets that are too large or complex to be dealt with by traditional data-processing application software. Data with many cases (rows) offer greater statistical power, while data with higher complexity may lead to a higher false discovery rate. Big data challenges include capturing data, data storage, data analysis, search, sharing, transfer, visualization, querying, updating, information privacy and data source. Big data was originally associated with three key concepts: volume, variety, and velocity. When we handle big data, we may not sample but simply observe and track what happens. Therefore, big data often includes data with sizes that exceed the capacity of traditional usual software to process within an acceptable time and value.
Computational social science work increasingly relies on the greater availability of large databases, currently constructed and maintained by a number of interdisciplinary projects, including:
The Seshat: Global History Databank is an international scientific research project of the nonprofit Evolution Institute. Founded in 2011, the Seshat: Global History Databank gathers data into a single, large database that can be used to test scientific hypotheses. The Databank consults directly with expert scholars to code what historical societies and their environments were like in the form of accessible datapoints and thus forms a digital storehouse for data on the political and social organization of all human groups from the early modern back to the ancient and neolithic periods. The organizers of this research project contend that the mass of data then can be used to test a variety of competing hypotheses about the rise and fall of large-scale societies around the globe which may help science provide answers to global problems.
The Evolution Institute, established in 2010, is a non-profit think tank based in San Antonio, Florida that seeks to apply factual evolutionary science to social issues. Founded by evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson, it is the current home of Seshat: Global History Databank.
Peter N. Peregrine is an American anthropologist, registered professional archaeologist, and academic. He is well known for his staunch defense of science in anthropology, and for his popular textbook Anthropology. Peregrine did dissertation research on the evolution of the Mississippian culture of North America, and then did fieldwork on Bronze Age cities in Syria. He is currently Professor of Anthropology and Museum Studies at Lawrence University and Research Associate of the Human Relations Area Files at Yale University. From 2012 to 2018 he was an External Professor at the Santa Fe Institute.
The analysis of vast quantities of historical newspaperand book content have been pioneered in 2017, while other studies on similar data showed how periodic structures can be automatically discovered in historical newspapers. A similar analysis was performed on social media, again revealing strongly periodic structures.
Cliodynamics is a transdisciplinary area of research integrating cultural evolution, economic history/cliometrics, macrosociology, the mathematical modeling of historical processes during the longue durée, and the construction and analysis of historical databases. Cliodynamics treats history as science. Its practitioners develop theories that explain such dynamical processes as the rise and fall of empires, population booms and busts, spread and disappearance of religions. These theories are translated into mathematical models. Finally, model predictions are tested against data. Thus, building and analyzing massive databases of historical and archaeological information is one of the most important goals of cliodynamics.
Computational cognition is the study of the computational basis of learning and inference by mathematical modeling, computer simulation, and behavioral experiments. In psychology, it is an approach which develops computational models based on experimental results. It seeks to understand the basis behind the human method of processing of information. Early on computational cognitive scientists sought to bring back and create a scientific form of Brentano's psychology
Digital sociology is a sub-discipline of sociology that focuses on understanding the use of digital media as part of everyday life, and how these various technologies contribute to patterns of human behavior, social relationships and concepts of the self.
Complexity characterises the behaviour of a system or model whose components interact in multiple ways and follow local rules, meaning there is no reasonable higher instruction to define the various possible interactions.
Computational archaeology describes computer-based analytical methods for the study of long-term human behaviour and behavioural evolution. As with other sub-disciplines that have prefixed 'computational' to their name, the term is reserved for methods that could not realistically be performed without the aid of a computer.
The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to academic disciplines:
Text mining, also referred to as text data mining, roughly equivalent to text analytics, is the process of deriving high-quality information from text. High-quality information is typically derived through the devising of patterns and trends through means such as statistical pattern learning. Text mining usually involves the process of structuring the input text, deriving patterns within the structured data, and finally evaluation and interpretation of the output. 'High quality' in text mining usually refers to some combination of relevance, novelty, and interest. Typical text mining tasks include text categorization, text clustering, concept/entity extraction, production of granular taxonomies, sentiment analysis, document summarization, and entity relation modeling.
Social simulation is a research field that applies computational methods to study issues in the social sciences. The issues explored include problems in computational law, psychology, organizational behavior, sociology, political science, economics, anthropology, geography, engineering, archaeology and linguistics.
The Human Relations Area Files, Inc. (HRAF), located in New Haven, Connecticut is a nonprofit international membership organization with over 500 member institutions in the U.S. and more than 20 other countries. A financially autonomous research agency based at Yale University since 1949, its mission is to promote understanding of cultural diversity and commonality in the past and present. To accomplish this mission, the Human Relations Area Files produces scholarly resources and infrastructure for research, teaching and learning, and supports and conducts original research on cross-cultural variation.
Cross-cultural studies, sometimes called holocultural studies or comparative studies, is a specialization in anthropology and sister sciences that uses field data from many societies to examine the scope of human behavior and test hypotheses about human behavior and culture.
In sociology, social complexity is a conceptual framework used in the analysis of society. Contemporary definitions of complexity in the sciences are found in relation to systems theory, in which a phenomenon under study has many parts and many possible arrangements of the relationships between those parts. At the same time, what is complex and what is simple is relative and may change with time.
Macrosociology is an approach to sociology which emphasizes the analysis of social systems and populations on a large scale, at the level of social structure, and often at a necessarily high level of theoretical abstraction. Microsociology, by contrast, focuses on the individual social agency. Macrosociology also concerns individuals, families, and other constituent aspects of a society, but always does so in relation to larger social system of which they are a part. Macrosociology can also be the analysis of large collectivities. Human populations are considered a society to the degree that is politically autonomous and its members to engage in a broad range of cooperative activities. For example, this definition would apply to the population of Germany being deemed a society, but German-speaking people as a whole scattered about different countries would not be considered a society. Macrosociology deals with broad societal trends that can later be applied to the smaller features of a society. To differentiate, macrosociology deals with issues such as war, distress of Third World nations, poverty, and environmental deprivation, whereas microsociology analyses issues such as the role of women, the nature of the family, and immigration.
Quantitative history is an approach to historical research that makes use of quantitative, statistical and computer tools. It is considered a branch of social science history and has four leading journals: Historical Methods, Journal of Interdisciplinary History, the Social Science History, and Cliodynamics: The Journal of Quantitative History and Cultural Evolution.
Digital humanities (DH) is an area of scholarly activity at the intersection of computing or digital technologies and the disciplines of the humanities. It includes the systematic use of digital resources in the humanities, as well as the analysis of their application. DH can be defined as new ways of doing scholarship that involve collaborative, transdisciplinary, and computationally engaged research, teaching, and publishing. It brings digital tools and methods to the study of the humanities with the recognition that the printed word is no longer the main medium for knowledge production and distribution.
Mathematical sociology is the area of sociology that uses mathematics to construct social theories. Mathematical sociology aims to take sociological theory, which is strong in intuitive content but weak from a formal point of view, and to express it in formal terms. The benefits of this approach include increased clarity and the ability to use mathematics to derive implications of a theory that cannot be arrived at intuitively. In mathematical sociology, the preferred style is encapsulated in the phrase "constructing a mathematical model." This means making specified assumptions about some social phenomenon, expressing them in formal mathematics, and providing an empirical interpretation for the ideas. It also means deducing properties of the model and comparing these with relevant empirical data. Social network analysis is the best-known contribution of this subfield to sociology as a whole and to the scientific community at large. The models typically used in mathematical sociology allow sociologists to understand how predictable local interactions are and they are often able to elicit global patterns of social structure.
Historical sociology is a branch of sociology focusing on how societies develop through history. It looks at how social structures that many regard as natural are in fact shaped by complex social processes. The structure in turn shapes institutions and organizations, which affect the society - resulting in phenomena ranging from gender bias and income inequality to war.
The social data revolution is the shift in human communication patterns towards increased personal information sharing and its related implications, made possible by the rise of social networks in the early 2000s. This phenomenon has resulted in the accumulation of unprecedented amounts of public data.
Culturomics is a form of computational lexicology that studies human behavior and cultural trends through the quantitative analysis of digitized texts. Researchers data mine large digital archives to investigate cultural phenomena reflected in language and word usage. The term is an American neologism first described in a 2010 Science article called Quantitative Analysis of Culture Using Millions of Digitized Books, co-authored by Harvard researchers Jean-Baptiste Michel and Erez Lieberman Aiden.
The field of population informatics is the systematic study of populations via secondary analysis of massive data collections about people. Scientists in the field refer to this massive data collection as the social genome, denoting the collective digital footprint of our society. Population informatics applies data science to social genome data to answer fundamental questions about human society and population health much like bioinformatics applies data science to human genome data to answer questions about individual health. It is an emerging research area at the intersection of SBEH sciences, computer science, and statistics in which quantitative methods and computational tools are used to answer fundamental questions about our society.
The European Social Simulation Association (ESSA) is a scientific society aimed at promoting the development of social simulation research, education and application in Europe. It has over 350 members from several European countries. The association organizes a European conference every two years, and — in joint action with the Computational Social Science Society of the Americas (CSSSA) and the Pacific Asian Association for Agent-based Approach in Social Systems Sciences (PAAA) — a World Congress on Social Simulation (WCSS) every other year.