The world is not well. As we witness rampant dysfunction in our social, political, and economic institutions, many observers wonder why social science is not saving the day (and if computer science will manage a rescue instead). We can blame forces outside the academy, but the practical impotence of the social sciences also reflects the difficulties of social measurement and conservatism of our practices. So, what is social science to do? In a dispatch from the data science frontier, Dr. Nick Adams shares his vision of a future where social science's long under-tested meso-level theories of symbolic interaction and social psychology meet the big complex text and sensor data needed to give them new life and constructive power. Highlighting innovative methods scaling qualitative explanation to quantitative analysis, Adams sounds a bold call for the kind of social science this moment requires.
Former BIDS Research Fellow Nick Adams, PhD, is now Founder & Chief Scientist of Goodly Labs, an organization that provides collaborative online resources and opportunities that enable citizen scientists to engage with publicly available data. He is a sociologist, data scientist, and creator building tools and experiences that help people find common ground and build a better society. In a career motivated by his aspiration to improve the world, Adams has led electoral campaigns, directed the national security division of a think tank, completed ground-breaking research on police/protester interactions, constructed and shared massive and intricate datasets, invented new natural language processing methodologies and collaborative software, and instructed hundreds of students on topics including classical and contemporary social theory, social science methods, social psychology, political sociology, deviance and social control, and text analysis. Adams has founded and led multiple successful and surviving organizations, including Thusly Inc., UC Berkeley's Text Across Domains, the Computational Text Analysis Working Group, and his non-profit Goodly Labs, the sociotechnical skunkworks behind Public Editor, Demo Watch, Research Ready, and Same Page. His work has appeared in academic journals as well as The New York Times, Roll Call, The Atlantic, and Reader's Digest. He has been funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the MCcune Foundation, Schmidt Futures, the Berkeley Institute for Data Science, the Pritzker Family Fund, SAGE Publishing, the Social Science Research Council, and the National Science Foundation.