Observing Social Systems in the Era of Big Data. Part I

Tuesday, July 15, 2014: 3:30 PM-5:20 PM
Room: Booth 47
RC51 Sociocybernetics (host committee)

Language: English

The idea of studying society as a system made up of different inter-related parts dates back to well before the 20th century; indeed, the Greek philosopher Aristotle, who defined society as a system with a metaphor regarding living organisms, first formulated it. Even without going back so far in time, it is clear that the idea of social systems and the use of the word itself developed with the emergence of sociology as a discipline. In the light of the work of these authors, over the last seventy years, Talcott Parsons and Niklas Luhmann formulated their respective theories. The theory of social system developed by Parsons and that of social systems conceived by Luhmann, are commonly considered the most relevant applications of the principles of cybernetics, general systems theory and second order cybernetics to the study of society as a system or network of social systems. On the opposite end of this ideal spectrum, where at one end we can see the macro-sociological approaches inspired by cybernetic theories, there are in fact all those studies based on the simulation of social subjects’ behaviour through informational techniques. These include agent-based simulations used not only in sociology, but also widely adopted in economic studies about consumer behavior. From a sociological point of view, multi-agent-based simulation models are even more interesting. In these models, agents’ behaviour is affected not only by the context in which they are placed, but also by the behaviour of other agents that can work with similar or different rules. In this context, the advent of Internet has also had an impact. The availability of an inexpensive global communications network has had, and is still having, an extraordinary impact on numerous aspects of everyday life. It is not by chance that the metaphor of the network is considered a specific characteristic of contemporary society. The equal nature of this network has given rise, mainly following the extraordinary success of the so-called social media, to a phenomenon of progressive re-arrangement of the possibilities of communication and the power dynamics related to it. A condition of permanent connection has opened up new forms of reflexivity, both at the individual and societal level. According to a growing number of authors, this permanent relational reflexivity can be seen as a salient aspect of late/post-modernity. However, the same study of society necessarily entails a reflexivity exercise, since research and study are an integral part of the subject under study. This is why we can reasonably expect that such significant changes in society will imply changes in the status of the discipline itself. Furthermore, contemporary communications and social processes leave - both intentionally and unintentionally - a growing number of digital traces: personal communication shared in social network sites, family relationships declared on Facebook or political thoughts and opinions posted on Twitter are just the top of the iceberg of the data available to digital social researchers.
Session Organizer:
Fabio GIGLIETTO, University of Urbino Carlo Bo, Italy
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Ashwin NAGAPPA, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, India; Alpesh GAJBE, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, India; Faebitha RAHIMAN, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, India

In and out of the Mass Media System: Crisis Microblogging in a Social System Theory Perspective (Oral Presentation)
Luca ROSSI, IT University of Copenhagen, Denmark; Elisabetta ZUROVAC, University of Urbino Carlo Bo, Italy

Towards a Methodology of Visual Analysis on Twitter. the Earthquake in Northern Italy (Oral Presentation)
Laura GEMINI, University of Urbino Carlo Bo, Italy; Giovanni BOCCIA ARTIERI, University of Urbino Carlo Bo, Italy; Elisabetta ZUROVAC, University of Urbino Carlo Bo, Italy; Manolo FARCI, University of Urbino Carlo Bo, Italy

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