Understanding Social Contagion

Marcel Salathé (Penn State University)
Domain Data, Ballroom E

Who influences whom? Social Contagion, the spread of sentiments and behaviors, is the dominant force shaping human dynamics.

Businesses care about social contagion because they want to understand how their products can go viral. Politicians care about social contagion because the spread of hope or fear can win an election. Public health officials care about contagion because the spread of unhealthy behaviors will overwhelm our health care system.

Measuring social contagion, however, is hard, and presents us with considerable data science challenges. I will present our research on social contagion in the context of health behaviors, and how we address the phenomenon of social contagion with data science approaches. I will take the audience on a journey starting with mining open data from online social media services, to supervised machine learning algorithms, to data analysis using novel methods from social network statistics, all the while using only open source tools. The goal of the talk is a) to introduce the audience to the basic concepts of social contagion and b) to demonstrate a real world example of social contagion using open data science tools.

Marcel Salathé

Penn State University

Marcel Salathé is a Branco Weiss: Society in Science Fellow and Assistant Professor of Biology in the Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics at Penn State University. He’s generally interested in how human dynamics affect disease dynamics (and vice versa).

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