Workshop: Renmin University (Beijing)

International faculty and students met for one week at the School of Journalism and Communication of Renmin University to discuss modeling approaches to Big Data. The Annenberg team included professor Sandra González-Bailón and PhD students Jiaying Liu, Jingwen Zhang, Sijia Yang, and Bo Mai. Other invited international faculty included Javier Borge-Holthoefer, from the Qatar Computing Research Institute; Georgios Paltoglou, from Wolverhampton University; and Taha Yasseri, from the University of Oxford. The workshop consisted of faculty lectures and student presentations, and it included visits to the digital media companies Tencent and Baidu.

Course Development Grant

The Penn Social Science and Policy Forum just awarded us a grant to develop the course “The Theory of Networks: How Digital Technologies Shape Collective Behavior and Why it Matters”. Sandra González-Bailón and Victor Preciado will teach this course in Spring 2015.

Article: Bias in Online Networks

González-Bailón, S. et al. 2014 “Assessing the Bias in Samples of Large Online Networks”, Social Networks, v.38, pp. 16-27

Abstract: We consider the sampling bias introduced in the study of online networks when collecting data through publicly available APIs (application programming interfaces). We assess differences between three samples of Twitter activity; the empirical context is given by political protests taking place in May 2012. We track online communication around these protests for the period of one month, and reconstruct the network of mentions and re-tweets according to the search and the streaming APIs, and to different filtering parameters. We find that smaller samples do not offer an accurate picture of peripheral activity; we also find that the bias is greater for the network of mentions, partly because of the higher influence of snowballing in identifying relevant nodes. We discuss the implications of this bias for the study of diffusion dynamics and political communication through social media, and advocate the need for more uniform sampling procedures to study online communication.

Book Review: Big Data


A review of the book Big Data: a Revolution that will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think, by Victor Mayer-Schönberger and Kenneth Cukier is out in Information Polity.

Workshop: Big Data and Policy-Making

The second invitation-only workshop “Responsible Research Agendas for Public Policy in the Era of Big Data”, organized by the Oxford Internet Institute in conjunction with the journal Policy & Internet was held today at the Bureau of Labor Statistics in Washington, DC.

Talk: PolNet in Montreal

The VII Political Networks Conference took place at McGill University. Sandra González-Bailón presented the paper “The Emergence of Roles in Large-Scale Networks of Communication” (joint work with Javier Borge-Holthoefer and Ning Wang).