On August 11, 2013, the New York Times published an article by Ian Urbina with the headline: I Flirt and Tweet. Follow Me at #Socialbot. The article reports on how socialbots (software simulating people on social media) are being designed to sway elections, to influence the stock market, even to flirt with people and one another. Fil Menczer is quoted: “Bots are getting smarter and easier to create, and people are more susceptible to being fooled by them because we’re more inundated with information.” The article also mentions the Truthy project and some of our 2010 findings on political astroturf.
Inspired by this, the writers of The Good Wife consulted with us on an episode in which the main character finds that a social news site is using a socialbot to bring traffic to the site, defaming her client. The episode aired on November 24, 2013, on CBS (Season 5 Episode 9, “Whack-a-Mole”). Good show!
ACM, the professional association of computer scientists and computing professionals, announced today that I was named a Distinguished Scientist. Here is the list of other ACM members who got this award. This is a great honor and I am grateful. But my thanks go especially to my many amazing collaborators (colleagues, postdocs, visiting scholars, and especially students) without whom my contributions and impact would not exist — this award is also yours!
And while I am bragging, let me also mention that I was recently named a Senior Research Fellow of The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction. This is another great honor and I am excited about our team’s collaboration with the Kinsey Institute on the Kinsey Reporter project. The Kinsey Institute has an awesome tradition of trailblazing research and I hope that we can make a small contribution to it. Thanks to both the Kinsey Reporter team and our Kinsey collaborators!
A story in Nature discusses a recent paper (preprint) from CNetS members Jasleen Kaur, Filippo Radicchi and Fil Menczer on the universality of scholarly impact metrics. In the paper, we present a method to quantify the disciplinary bias of any scholarly impact metric. We use the method to evaluate a number of established scholarly impact metrics. We also introduce a simple universal metric that allows to compare the impact of scholars across scientific disciplines. Mohsen JafariAsbagh integrated this metric into Scholarometer, a crowdsourcing system developed by our group to collect and share scholarly impact data. The Nature story highlight how one can use normalized impact metrics to rank all scholars, as illustrated in the widget shown here.
We are excited to announce that the ACM Web Science 2014 Conference will be hosted by our center on the beautiful IUB campus June 23–26, 2014. Web Science studies the vast information network of people, communities, organizations, applications, and policies that shape and are shaped by the Web, the largest artifact constructed by humans in history. Computing, physical, and social sciences come together, complementing each other in understanding how the Web affects our interactions and behaviors. Previous editions of the conference were held in Athens, Raleigh, Koblenz, Evanston, and Paris. The conference is organized on behalf of the Web Science Trust by general co-chairs Fil Menczer, Jim Hendler, and Bill Dutton. Follow us on Twitter and see you in Bloomington!
Congratulations to Przemyslaw Grabowicz, Luca Aiello, and Fil Menczer for winning the WICI Data Challenge. A prize of $10,000 CAD accompanies this award from the Waterloo Institute for Complexity and Innovation at the University of Waterloo. The Challenge called for tools and methods that improve the exploration, analysis, and visualization of complex-systems data. The winning entry, titled Fast visualization of relevant portions of large dynamic networks, is an algorithm that selects subsets of nodes and edges that best represent an evolving graph and visualizes it either by creating a movie, or by streaming it to an interactive network visualization tool. The algorithm is deployed in the movie generation tool of the Truthy system, which allows users to create, in near-real time, YouTube videos that illustrate the spread and co-occurrence of memes on Twitter. Przemek and Luca worked on this project while visiting CNetS in 2011 and collaborating with the Truthy team. Bravo!
On June 27, 2013, in Turin, within the celebrations of the Lagrange Prize and ISI Foundation’s 30th anniversary, Fil Menczer and nine other scientists were named ISI Fellows. The recognition is a tribute to researchers whose scientific contribution is of primary importance for the Institute. The official investiture took place on June 28th, 2013, during the conference The Being of Science, which highlighted the ways in which the Fellows’ research fields intertwine with the ISI scientific activities.
UPDATE: With legal review completed, we re-launched Kinsey Reporter V.2!
CNetS, in collaboration with The Kinsey Institute, has released Kinsey Reporter, a global mobile survey platform for collecting and sharing anonymous data about sexual and other intimate behaviors. The pilot project allows citizen observers around the world to use free applications now available for Apple and Android mobile platforms to not only report on sexual behavior and experiences, but also to share, explore and visualize the accumulated data.
This new platform will allow us to explore issues that have been challenging to study until now, such as the prevalence of unreported sexual violence in different parts of the world, or the correlation between various sexual practices like condom use, for example, and the cultural, political, religious or health contexts in particular geographical areas.
The Kinsey Institute’s longstanding seminal studies of sexual behaviors created a perfect synergy with research going on at CNetS related to mining big data crowd-sourced from mobile social media. The sensitive domain — sexual relations — added an intriguing challenge in finding a way to share useful data with the community while protecting the privacy and anonymity of the reporting volunteers.
To foster the study of the structure and dynamics of Web traffic networks, we are making available to the research community a large Click Dataset of
13 53.5 billion HTTP requests collected at Indiana University. Between 2006 and 2010, our system generated data at a rate of about 60 million requests per day, or about 30 GB/day of raw data. We hope that this data will help develop a better understanding of user behavior online and create more realistic models of Web traffic. The potential applications of this data include improved designs for networks, sites, and server software; more accurate forecasting of traffic trends; classification of sites based on the patterns of activity they inspire; and improved ranking algorithms for search results.
Read our latest paper titled Social Dynamics of Science in Nature Scientific Reports. Authors Xiaoling Sun, Jasleen Kaur, Staša Milojević, Alessandro Flammini & Filippo Menczer ask, How do scientific disciplines emerge? No quantitative model to date allows us to validate competing theories on the different roles of endogenous processes, such as social collaborations, and exogenous events, such as scientific discoveries. Here we propose an agent-based model in which the evolution of disciplines is guided mainly by social interactions among agents representing scientists. Disciplines emerge from splitting and merging of social communities in a collaboration network. We find that this social model can account for a number of stylized facts about the relationships between disciplines, scholars, and publications. These results provide strong quantitative support for the key role of social interactions in shaping the dynamics of science. While several “science of science” theories exist, this is the first account for the emergence of disciplines that is validated on the basis of empirical data.
[UPDATE: this position has been filled.]
The Center for Complex Networks and Systems Research has an open postdoctoral position to study how ideas propagate through complex online social networks. The position is funded by a McDonnell Foundation’s grant in Complex Systems. The appointment starts as early as possible after January 2013 for one year and is renewable for up to 2 additional years. The salary is competitive and benefits are generous.
The postdoc will join a dynamic and interdisciplinary team that includes computer, physical, and cognitive scientists. The postdoc will work with PIs Filippo Menczer and Alessandro Flammini, other postdocs, and several PhD students on analysis and modeling of social media data. Areas of focus will include information diffusion patterns, epidemic models for the spread of ideas, interactions between network traffic and structure dynamics, and agent-based models to explain the emergence of viral bursts of attention. Domains of study will include politics, scientific knowledge, and world events. Go to the grant page or project page for further details on the team and project.
The ideal candidate will have a PhD in computing or physical sciences; a strong background in analysis and modeling of complex systems and networks; and solid programming skills necessary to handle big data and develop large scale simulations.
To apply, email/send a CV and names and emails of three references to Tara Holbrook. Applications received by 15 December 2012 will receive full consideration, but applications will be considered until the position is filled.
Indiana University is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action employer. Applications from women and minorities are strongly encouraged. IU Bloomington is vitally interested in the needs of Dual Career couples.
I was honored to give a keynote presentation at PLEAD 2012, the CIKM Workshop on Politics, Elections and Data. My talk was titled The diffusion of political memes in social media. The workshop was held in beautiful Maui Hawaii, but alas, I could not attend in person and gave the presentation remotely via skype :-(
Research by our Truthy team was recently featured in New Scientist, USA Today, and the cover story of Science News. The Truthy project, developed by CNetS researchers and doctoral students, aims to study the factors affecting the spread of information — and misinformation — in social media.
The Truthy site charts tweet sentiment and volume related to themes such as social movements and news. It also monitors Twitter activity to build interactive networks that let visitors visualize the diffusion networks of memes, identify the most influential information spreaders, and explore those influential feeds and other information about their online activity, such as sentiment and language. Other tools let you map the geo-temporal diffusion of memes, generate YouTube movies that display how hashtags emerge and connect, and download data directly from Twitter. With these analytics, one can begin to ask question such as: How does sentiment change in response to events and memes? What memes survive over time? Who are the most influential users on a particular topic?
For more press coverage go to the Truthy press page.
Network Science is a new journal for a new discipline — one using the network paradigm, focusing on actors and relational linkages, to inform research, methodology, and applications from many fields across the natural, social, engineering and informational sciences. Given growing understanding of the interconnectedness and globalization of the world, network methods are an increasingly recognized way to research aspects of modern society along with the individuals, organizations, and other actors within it. I serve on the editorial team together with several IU colleagues. Network Science is published by Cambridge University Press. For further details, visit the official website or the informal site here at IU.
I also serve on the editorial board of EPJ Data Science, a new journal that aims to address the challenges of extracting meaningful data from systems with ever increasing complexity, analyzing them in ways that allow new insights, generating data that is needed but not yet available, and finding new empirical laws, or more fundamental theories, concerning how any natural or artificial (complex) systems work. This open access journal covers a broad range of research areas and applications and particularly encourages contributions from techno-socio-economic systems, where it comprises those research lines that now regard the digital tracks of human beings as first-order objects for scientific investigation. Topics include, but are not limited to, human behavior, social interaction (including animal societies), economic and financial systems, management and business networks, socio-technical infrastructure, health and environmental systems, the science of science, as well as general risk and crisis scenario forecasting up to and including policy advice.
We welcome two postdoctoral associates who just joined our center. Ruby Wang got her PhD in Physics from Central China Normal University in 2009. Emilio Ferrara got his PhD in Mathematics (Computer Science) from the University of Messina in Italy in 2012. Both will work on projects related to the diffusion of information in social media and social networks.
Congratulations to Karissa McKelvey for being one of six undergraduate students at Indiana University Bloomington who have received the 2011-12 Provost’s Award for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity. A senior in the School of Informatics and Computing from Santa Rosa, Calif., Karissa is working with Filippo Menczer on the Truthy project, which analyzes and makes accessible a massive stream of data disseminated through social media. She is focusing on the design and development of an interactive Web interface to visualize and navigate the diffusion of memes on networks such as Twitter. The goal of the project is to empower researchers, journalists and ordinary citizens to visualize how information spreads online and identify critical factors of the diffusion process. Karissa recently presented her work at the 2012 Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work. She plans to pursue a Ph.D. and to conduct research that applies computational tools to fields such as political science.
In our paper on Competition among memes in a world with limited attention in Nature Scientific Reports, Lilian Weng and coauthors Sandro Flammini, Alex Vespignani, and Fil Menczer report that we can explain the massive heterogeneity in the popularity and persistence of memes as deriving from a combination of the competition for our limited attention and the structure of the social network, without the need to assume different intrinsic values among ideas. The findings have been mentioned in the popular press, including Information Week, The Atlantic, and the Dutch daily NRC.
Prof. Flammini (PI) and Menczer have been awarded a three-year, $2M grant from DARPA in the context of the Social Media in Strategic Communication (SMISC) program, whose primary goal is “to develop a new science of social networks built on an emerging technology base,” Our IU unit leads a three-group team that includes collaborators at Lockheed-Martin Advanced Technology Lab and the University of Michigan. The funded project is aimed at designing and implementing a system to detect online persuasion campaigns.
The AAAS Annual Meeting (Feb 16-20 in Vancouver) is the premier multi-disciplinary gathering of the world’s leading scientists. The theme of this year’s Annual Meeting is Flattening the World: Building a Global Knowledge Society. Hope to see you in Vancouver! (You can register at http://www.aaas.org/meetings/2012/registration/)
The 21st century is currently witnessing the establishment of data-driven science as a complementary approach to the traditional hypothesis-driven method. This (r)evolution accompanying the paradigm shift from reductionism to complex systems sciences has already largely transformed the natural sciences and is about to bring the same changes to the techno-socio-economic sciences, viewed broadly.
EPJ Data Science offers a publication platform to address this evolution by bringing together all academic disciplines concerned with the same challenges:
- how to extract meaningful data from systems with ever increasing complexity
- how to analyse them in a way that allows new insights
- how to generate data that is needed but not yet available
- how to find new empirical laws, or more fundamental theories, concerning how any natural or artificial (complex) systems work
EPJ Data Science covers a broad range of research areas and applications and particularly encourages contributions from techno-socio-economic systems, where it comprises those research lines that now regard the digital tracks of human beings as first-order objects for scientific investigation. Topics include, but are not limited to, human behavior, social interaction (including animal societies), economic and financial systems, management and business networks, socio-technical infrastructure, health and environmental systems, the science of science, as well as general risk and crisis scenario forecasting up to and including policy advice.
We’re pleased to report several exciting developments in our interdisciplinary project studying information diffusion in complex online social networks. The past year has resulted in several publications. Our results on the Truthy astroturf monitoring and detection system were presented at WWW 2011 and ICWSM 2011. Research into the polarized network structure of political communication on Twitter was presented at ICWSM and received the 2011 CITASA Best Student Paper Honorable Mention. We demonstrated the feasibility of the prediction of individuals’ political affiliation from network and text data (SocialCom 2011), a machine learning application that enables large-scale instrumentation of nearly 20,000 individuals’ political behaviors, policy foci, and geospatial distribution (Journal of Information Technology and Politics). We’re also working on a paper on partisan asymmetries in online political activity surrounding the 2010 U.S. congressional midterm elections.
Our results have been widely covered in the press, including the Wall Street Journal, Science, Communications of the ACM, NPR [1,2], The Chronicle of Higher Education, Discover Magazine, The Atlantic, New Scientist, MIT Technology Review, and many more.
Current and future research is supported by an award from the NSF Interface between Computer Science and Economics & Social Sciences program, and a McDonnell Foundation grant. The former will focus on building an infrastructure for the study of information diffusion in social media, the characterization of meme spread patterns, and the development of sentiment analysis tools for social media. The latter will focus on modeling efforts, especially agent-based models of information diffusion, competition for attention, and the relationship between information sharing events and social network evolution.