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CSS Initiative

Computational Social Science (CSS) Initiative

The Center for the Study of Complex Systems is pleased to announce a new initiative on Computational Social Science (CSS) This initiative was established in the fall of 2017. Under the leadership of core faculty member Elizabeth Bruch, the CSS Initiative aims to develop new courses in computational social science and to build an interdisciplinary community of Michigan students and faculty who work and collaborate in this area. Vast streams of activity data from electronic sources make it possible to study human behavior with an unparalleled richness of detail. Social scientists can, for the first time, avail themselves of granular, disintermediated data to assemble individual narratives, motivations, and behavioral arcs as people go about living their lives.   

The plan is for this community to be able to discuss topics of mutual interest, learn new skills, and create interdisciplinary collaborations. As part of this effort, we are organizing a series of methods workshops designed to provide introductions to important CSS-related models and techniques (see below)

Core faculty member Daniel Romero is co-organizing many initiative activities.

CSS Course Development

The CSS Initiative will develop new courses at both the undergraduate and graduate levels including hands-on labs for social science undergraduates without a strong programming background. These labs will provide an opportunity for undergraduates to collect and analyze online data from places like Reddit and Twitter to study topics such as trolling behavior and its consequences or networks of influence. At the graduate level, the CSS Initiative is developing hands-on course materials on a range of topics including discrete choice modeling, network analysis, Bayesian statistics, and reproducible research.

CSS Workshops

To complement course development, a series of one-day technical workshops will introduce students and faculty to quantitative methods for modeling human behavior and social dynamics. The first set of workshops will be held this fall and are described here. The CSS Initiative will also cultivate cross-disciplinary interaction between faculty and students within the College of LSA and throughout the University of Michigan. Planned activities include a computational social science speaker series, a CSS faculty Working Group, a book group to discuss recent publications of interest, and coordinated activities with related groups such as the Michigan Data Science (MIDAS) initiative. For more information, please contact