Scientists see Internet as a great social research tool

February 15th, 2009 - 5:04 pm ICT by ANI  


Washington, February 15 (ANI): Scientists have of late started to consider the Internet to be a great tool to carry out social research.
Thomas Dietz, Michigan State University researcher and director of the university’’s Environmental Science and Policy Program, says that the is increasingly moving beyond its use as an online messaging platform to a virtual world where social interaction and communities can inform social science and its applications in the real world.
“Although social scientists, engineers and physical scientists have studied the World Wide Web as an entity in and of itself for some time, there is now a growing group of social scientists who are learning how to use the World Wide Web as a tool for research rather than as a subject of research,” he said at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting in Chicago.
He revealed that University of Michigan political science professor Arthur Lupia had observed that new virtual communities were improving surveys and transforming social science.
“Lupia is one of the world’’s leaders related to survey research on the Web. His focus is on learning to use the Web as a way of soliciting people’’s opinions and getting factual information from them via online surveys,” Dietz said.
He also revealed that Adam Henry, a doctoral fellow in the Sustainability Science Program at Harvard University’’s Center for International Development, was working on novel ways to measure social networks using the World Wide Web.
“Henry is developing very innovative ways to identify networks that are actual face-to-face relationships by tracking evidence streams on the Web. In other words, it’’s not simply about who’’s connected to whom on Facebook or Twitter, but who’’s doing research with whom in the real world. It’’s using the virtual world to identify things that are going on in the real world rather than using the virtual world simply to look at the virtual world,” he said.
Dietz also revealed that William Bainbridge, program director for the National Science Foundation’’s Human-Centered Computing Cluster, was studying the role of social science in creating virtual worlds.
“Bainbridge is studying group formation and social change over time in virtual worlds such as ”World of Warcraft” and ”Second Life” to inform and build on what sociologists have studied for 150 years,” he said.
“He contends that virtual worlds are excellent laboratories for observing and prototyping new social forms that can later be applied to the outside world,” he added. (ANI)

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