Sociology of the Internet Awards from CITASA – The Communications and Information Technology section of the American Sociological Association


This year’s CITASA awards have been announced!  CITASA is the Communications and Information Technology section of the American Sociological Association.  It gathers together more than 300 sociologists interested in the ways groups of people make use of computation and networks. This year the line up is uniformly high quality scholarship about the nature of societies that increasingly rely upon information technology.

You are welcome to join the CITASA Business Meeting on Aug 8 from 9:30-10:10am at the Parc 55 Hotel where the recipients will be presented with their awards. A description of the awards and list of past recipients can be found on the CITASA website:

2009 CITASA Student Paper Award

Daniel A. Menchik and Xiaoli Tian (University of Chicago)

Putting Social Context into Text: The Semiotics of E-mail Interaction. American Journal of Sociology 114(2): 332-370. (2008).

Committee members: Zeynep Tufekci (Chair), Lori Kendall, and Anabel Quan-Haase

2009 CITASA Award for Public Sociology

Peter Kollock (University of California at Los Angeles)

Committee members: Michael Macy (Chair), Marc Smith, Keith Hampton

2009 CITASA Paper Award

Eszter Hargitta, Jason Gallo, and Matthew Kane (Northwestern University)

Cross-ideological discussions among conservative and liberal bloggers. Public Choice 134: 67-86. (2008).

Honorable mention:

Lori Kendall (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)

How do issues of gender and sexuality influence the structures and process of qualitative internet research? pp. 99-118. In Internet Inquiry: Conversations about method, Annette Markham and Nancy Baym (eds). Los Angeles: Sage (2008).

Committee members: Hiroshi Ono (Chair), Rich Ling, and Bernie Hogan

2009 CITASA Book Award

Tarleton Gillespie (Cornell University). (MIT Press, 2007).

Committee members: Leslie Shade (Chair), Marc Smith, and Alison Powell

2009 CITASA William F. Ogburn Career Achievement Award

Elihu Katz (University of Pennsylvania)

Committee members: Anabel Quan-Haase (Co-Chair), Barry Wellman (Co-Chair), and Keith Hampton

Princeton – Studying Society In A Digital World – Conference Slides and photos

Princeton Center for Information Technology Policy
Princeton Center for Information Technology Policy

I attended the “Studying Society In A Digital World” conference at the Center for Information Technology Policy at Princeton University.  They just posted most of the conference slides.  I took some pictures and have inserted them next to the link for slides where I had a picture (or a good one!).  The conference was very useful and informative: there is a great trend towards sensor driven data sets that, in aggregate, illuminate large complex systems in detailed and surprising ways.

Talks from SenseNetworks and MIT made the vision of a continuous “trail” document assembled by location and biological sensors from every human on earth seem not so outlandish. Samuel Madden from MIT spoke about opportunistic mobile wifi connectivity in moving vehicles.  MIT rebuilt the WiFi stack to enable 13ms associations instead of 13 second associations with an access point.  The result is that a car with such a WiFi card can drive along Boston city streets and exchange about 200KB a minute with open unsecured access points along the way.  Free bandwidth in the city.  What do they do with it?  They stream live telemetry of a fleet of cabs.  The cabs have accelerometers on them and GPS which is reported in almost real time back to a server.  Along with the engine computer’s data, they collect a ton of data about traffic and road surface quality.  They can see changing patterns in the activity levels of the cabs and infer changing activity at businesses.

A major theme of several presentations was crowdsourcing for science, with talks about and galaxyzoo highlighting a distinction between sites that enable a group to collect data (ebird) – with the associated issues of data validity — and those sites that enable a group to annotate data (galaxyzoo) that has already been expertly collected.

Lada Adamic: Social Influence and the Diffusion of User-Generated Content

Chris Barrett: Co-evolution of Sociotechnical Networks and Individual Behavior

Princeton: Studying Society in a Digital World

Kathleen M. Carley: Information & Belief Diffusion Through Social Networks: Empirically Grounded Simulation

Princeton: Studying Society in a Digital World

Damon Centola: New Theory and Experiments on Diffusion in Social Networks

Pablo Chavez: The Current Policy Debates Over Online Information Practices: Implications for Research in the Digital Age

Princeton: Studying Society in a Digital World

Nosh Contractor: Digital Traces: An Exploratorium for Understanding & Enabling Social Networks

Princeton: Studying Society in a Digital World

Nathan Eagle, Michael Macy: Scaling of Sociodynamics

Scott Golder at Princeton

Scott Golder: Temporal Rhythms in Electronic Society: Examples from Facebook and Elsewhere

Eric Horvitz: Through the Lens of a Large Instant-Messaging Network: Planetary-Scale Views on Behavior

Tony Jebara at Princeton

Tony Jebara: Learning Networks of Places and People from Location Data

Steve Kelling: eBird: The Long Tail of Community Engagement in the Scientific Process

Jon Kleinberg at Princeton

Jon Kleinberg: Spatial Signatures of On-line Behavior

Princeton: Studying Society in a Digital World

Robert Kraut: Theory-Based Design of On-Line Worlds

W. Russell Neuman: Social Science and Policy Praxis

Jukka-Pekka Onnela: Using Cell Phones to Study the Large-Scale Structure of Social Networks

Princeton: Studying Society in a Digital World

Paul Resnick: Understanding Opinion Diversity Preferences Through Field Experiments

Princeton: Studying Society in a Digital World

Matthew Salganik: Community-Generated and Community-Sorted Information In his presentation Matt made the remarkable connection between deliberative democracy and the cat comparrison site: Kitten Wars.  His talk introduced a model for a kind of Am I Hot or Not for political discussions.  His group built a web site that helped the student community at Princeton set its priorities for student government.  The work has significant implications fo deliberation tools for organizations and enterprises.  Unlike systems that simply encourage users to contribute ideas to a potentially long and never acted upon list, this system forces a comparison task that can be performed in one click but demands implicit contrasts and estimation of value.  The use of the almost adictive “hot or not” style interface (or more accurately, kittenwars)  allows users to decide between, for example, longer hours for the student cafeteria or expanded video rental services, and get presented with their estimate in the context of other’s choices and the opportunity to choose between two things again.  After a population has run through a set of pair-wise contrasts a broader sense of the priorities of the community can be calculated.

In my talk, I focused on the idea that information want not to be free or expensive, rather, information wants to be copied.  Like DNA, the goal of any string of bits is to make a duplicate copy of themselves.  Several technical realities mean that while information may exist on a spectrum from private to public, it only moves in one direction (public) and almost never back.  Once made public on the Internet, even if only for a moment, a photo, document, or other digital object is almost certainly to have been copied, indexed, backed up, or replicated.  All efforts to delete a digital object once widely distributed is like trying to take wine out of water.  This is because all cryptography become brittle over time, most bits end up exposed after they get distributed, and more events trigger widespread distribution of bits than expected (for example, linking a photo, and a location, to a tweet that gets copied to LinkedIn and Facebook, that then appears in an RSS feed and is copied from there to Friend Feed.  As it travels, information looses more of the access controls that initially made it relatively private until it is effectively public.

Marc Smith talks about information at Princeton CITP "Studying Society in a Digital World" Conference
Marc Smith talks about information at Princeton CITP "Studying Society in a Digital World" Conference - Photo Credit: Scott Golder

Marc Smith: Autobiography, Mobile Social Life-Lagging and the Transition from Ephemeral to Archival Society

Joshua Tauberer: Watching the Watchers: Government Oversight with Civic Hacking

Princeton: Studying Society in a Digital World

Marshall Van Alstyne: Information, Social Networks and Productivity

Sadly, no picture for Luis Van Ahn’s talk: however, this presentation was a fascinating review of the capcha and re-capcha services and the new direction of providing translation services as language learning games.  Luis Van Ahn invented capcha, felt bad about the cumulative human time wasted by filling out those squiggle word puzzels to get on a web site, and decided to harness capchas to a useful task: text recognition for books.  To translate words from bad scans of books that the OCR software fails to recognize correctly, the garbled data is presented to humans, who, collectively, have translated millions of previously unintelligible words.  Now, his new project is to expand the small user population of bi or multilingual speakers who can translate between languages.  The approach applies the “Mechanical Turk” “human intelligence task” concept to language translation.  His language translation service presents foreign language sentences to users with all dictionary words from a simple translation listed below.  Users click on best word selection beneath each foreign word.  The surprising results: pretty good translations AND users start learning a foreign language!

Luis von Ahn: Human Computation

Where Sociology meets the Internet

Welcome to all those Interested in sociology, technology, social media, mobile social software, or any and all forms of online communication. This blog is intended as a repository for information about research on computer-mediated collective action from a sociological perspective. Many people, from marketing, research and development, engineering, academic research, to managers of e-business are increasingly finding social science has methods and concepts that can help us understand the Internet-connected world we live in. We are fascinated by the changes these tools are making possible and hope to shed some light on ideas and research that can help you productively navigate the changes.

We’ll be updating this blog fairly often with pointers to interesting research and applications along with musings based on our own experiences. We hope you’ll find it informative, entertaining, enlightening, or some combination of the three.

Poke around, find out who we are, and pardon our dust as we finish constructing the site. We’ll be updating the various static pages in the next few weeks, but the blog is now live for posting and content updates, so stay tuned!