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How Yahoo Research Labs Studies Culture as a Formal Computational Concept

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Plotting social ties on the aNobii social network.

The study found the most frequent aNobii interactions entail status-giving; no domain is predominant, on average, in Flickr users' communications.

Credit: Technology Review

Yahoo Labs researchers aim to achieve a truly computational understanding of human society by analyzing the links that form on social networks.

They employed two data sets from a pair of social networks, with the first comprised of more than 1 million messages sent between 500,000 pairs of users of the aNobii network. The second set consisted of 100,000 anonymized user pairs who commented on each other's photos on Flickr, sending some 2 million messages in total.

The messages were analyzed according to the type of information they communicate and are divided into three groups, respectively associated with social status, social support, and knowledge exchange. The researchers then created an algorithm that automatically categorizes the messages sent between individuals based on the content they contain and their similarity to messages of the same type. The last step is evaluation of the algorithm's results by having editors assess a sample of 1,000 randomly chosen messages from each website and label them according to the three categories, with strong agreement between algorithmic and human selections.

The study determined that the most frequent aNobii interactions entail status-giving, while no domain is predominant on average in Flickr users' communications. The researchers also observed that "status exchange serves to set the foundation for the future relationship, feeding to the interactional background after the tie-formation stage."

From Technology Review
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Abstracts Copyright © 2014 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


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