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Facebook to Get Friendly with Sociologists at Association's Annual Meeting

By / Jun 16, 2014 Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. (photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images/Thinkstock)

The leading social network will host a private event—part education, part recruiting—ahead of this year’s American Sociological Association conference. Its appeal? Really big data in the form of a massive social graph.

It makes sense that the world’s largest social network would want some help from sociologists. And it’s going straight to the source to get it.

Ahead of this year’s American Sociological Association (ASA) annual meeting in San Francisco August 16-19, Facebook is planning to hold a private event for social scientists—and will shuttle meeting attendees to its headquarters in nearby Menlo Park, California, according to a VentureBeat report.

You are recording social interaction in real time as it occurs completely naturally.

Where’s the connection? Simple: Facebook has a lot of data on its customers—and that appeals to some in the academic community. Facebook collects much of its data by tracking the interactions of its users each day, a more natural and organic method than by conducting a survey.

“It has no [artificial] construct, you are not bringing people to the lab,” University of California, Berkeley, Ph.D. candidate Laura Nelson told VentureBeat. “So you are recording social interaction in real time as it occurs completely naturally.”

Facebook will show off some of its data tools to participating ASA members, according to the report.

Sociology + Social Media

The Facebook event even has a bit of researcher credibility—the two organizers are reportedly Peter Brandon of the State University of New York at Albany and Michael Corey of the University of Chicago. Corey, according to NBC Bay Area, has been working with Facebook for the past year, helping the company to expand its reach in the developing world.

It’s likely that Facebook is also using the event for recruiting purposes—which many ASA members could find an appealing proposition, considering the company has 802 million daily users contributing to its data.

Tech’s connection to sociology isn’t anything new, and while the field hasn’t necessarily had a corporate bent in the past, there are some examples of social scientists who have built careers in the tech space, most notably danah boyd, a social media researcher (known for not capitalizing her name) who has worked for Microsoft since 2009.

Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. More »

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