IDSS Distinguished Seminar Series: Matthew Salganik, Princeton University
December 8, 2015 | 4:00 pm | 32-141

headshot_200Title: Wiki Surveys: Open and Quantifiable Social Data Collection

Abstract: In the social sciences, there is a longstanding tension between data collection methods that facilitate quantification and those that are open to unanticipated information.  Advances in technology now enable new, hybrid methods that can combine some of the benefits of both approaches.  Drawing inspiration both from online information aggregation systems like Wikipedia and from traditional survey research, we propose a new class of research instruments called wiki surveys. Just as Wikipedia evolves over time based on contributions from participants, we envision an evolving survey driven by contributions from respondents. We develop three general principles that underlie wiki surveys: they should be greedy, collaborative, and adaptive. Building on these principles, we develop methods for data collection and data analysis for one type of wiki survey, a pairwise wiki survey. We then present results from www.allourideas.org, a free and open-source website we created that enables groups all over the world to deploy wiki surveys. To date, more than 7,000 wiki surveys have been created, and they have collected over 400,000 ideas and 10 million votes. We describe the methodological challenges involved in collecting and analyzing this type of data and present a case study of a wiki survey created by the New York City Mayor’s Office. The talk will end with some more general claims about social research in the digital age. [Joint work with Karen E.C. Levy]

Bio: Matthew Salganik is a professor of sociology at Princeton University, and he is affiliated with several of Princeton’s interdisciplinary research centers: the Office for Population Research, the Center for Information Technology Policy, the Center for Health and Wellbeing, and the Center for Statistics and Machine Learning. His research interests include social networks, quantitative methods, and computational social science.

Prof. Salganik’s research has been published in journals including Science, PNAS, Sociological Methodology, and Journal of the American Statistical Association. His papers have won the Outstanding Article Award from the Mathematical Sociology Section of the American Sociological Association and the Outstanding Statistical Application Award from the American Statistical Association. Popular accounts of his work have appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Economist, and New Yorker. Salganik’s research is funded by the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, Joint United Nations Program for HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), and Google.

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