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Social Fabric

“Social Fabric” (2013-2018) is an 18 mill DKK interdisciplinary centre of excellence funded by Copenhagen University’s 2016-fund, on which I serve as co-PI.

Hosted at the Economics Department (PI David Dreyer Lassen), the research programme included researchers from several UCPH faculties including sociology, public health, psychology, physics and philosophy, as well as a research project called Sensible DTU from the Danish Technical University lead by Sune Lehmann.

Using smart phones as a measurement device along with a mix of traditional social scientific methods, Social Fabric/Sensible DTU aims to generate continuous recordings of social interactions at all communication channels for a large group of people (first-year students at the Danish Technical University; >1000) with a view to combine quantitatively and qualitatively based models of social networks.

Together with Anders Blok from the UCPH sociology department and two doctoral students, the “soc-anth” subproject seeks apply and develop sociological theories of social network patterns and enrich and challenge such computational approaches by deploying ethnographic fieldwork in the study of how friendships and other social relations emerge, develop and transform, among university student cohorts.

As such, we seek first answers to the future of the social sciences by asking how the rise computational social science lead to a reconfiguration of the split between quantitative and qualitative research methods and data – and with what consequence for explanatory ambitions and models in sociology and anthropology? Furthermore, what ethical, political and epistemological challenges and opportunities does the rise of “big data” pose to the social sciences and to society more generally? What may be learned about the dynamics of cross-disciplinary ‘big data’ research collaboration from the Social Fabric/Sensible DTU experiment itself?

Date: July 17, 2012