REPORT: Facebook To Host Academics-Only Sociology Conference

By David Cohen 

Sociology650Is the world’s largest social network dipping its toes into sociology? VentureBeat reported that Facebook will host an academics-only conference on the topic at its headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., in August, just prior to the American Sociological Association 2014 Annual Meeting in San Francisco Aug. 16 through 19.

According to VentureBeat, Facebook will run shuttles from the ASA gathering to Menlo Park, and the social network’s event will focus on “techniques related to data collection with the advent of social media and increased interconnectivity across the world.” Facebook’s tools and software stack will also be demonstrated.

VentureBeat reported that Facebook’s conference is being organized by State University of New York at Albany Sociology Prof. Peter Brandon and University of Chicago PhD candidate in sociology Michael Corey, adding that Brandon uses Survey of Income and Program Participation data in his research, while Corey uses time-diary data to study into how evening work affects time with family.

University of California Berkeley PhD candidate in sociology Laura Nelson speculated that the interest in working with Facebook may be the result of natural interaction with the social network’s users, telling VentureBeat:

So I give you a survey you fill it out, which is very artificial, whereas ethnography, as soon as you walk into the room, you change that room, because you are a foreign presence. There’s a scientist in the room. People get self-conscious. They don’t act naturally.

(Facebook data) has no artificial construction, you are not bringing people to the lab. So you are recording social interaction in real time as it occurs completely naturally.

Readers: Why do you think Facebook is dabbling in sociology?