Talk: 'Understanding Personal Networks: The Limits of Big Data and the Perils'

Event Details

April 25, 2018
11:30 am

Campus Center

Room: Hadley Room

UMass Amherst Campus

Handicap access available
Free admission
C.N. Le

Presented by Mario Small, professor of sociology, Harvard University.

When people seek emotional support, how do they decide whom to talk to? Network analysis and common sense would both suggest that people will go to those they are closest to their strong ties. Based on in-depth interviews with graduate students in one university and nationally representative survey data on adults 18 and older, this talk, based on Small's new book, Someone To Talk To, finds reason to question that belief. Shifting from what people say to what they actually do, Small shows that widely-agreed upon assumptions about the nature of strong ties do not stand up to qualitative empirical scrutiny and do not accord with how people in their ordinary lives interact with those they are close to. The findings will suggest that, in big data era, qualitative research has become more, not less important to social science.

Small is the Grafstein Family Professor at Harvard University and the author of award-winning books and articles on networks, poverty, organizations, culture, methods, neighborhoods, institutions, and other topics. He is currently using large-scale administrative data to understand isolation in cities, studying how people use their networks to meet their needs, and exploring the epistemological foundations of qualitative research. His latest book is "Someone To Talk To." A study of how people decide whom to approach when seeking support, the book is an inquiry into human nature, a critique of network analysis, and a discourse on the role of qualitative research in the big-data era.

Light lunch provided.

Free and open to the public.


The Campus Center is located in the middle of campus at 1 Campus Center Way. Parking is available in the Campus Center Garage.

More details on directions and parking.