Social Science in the Era of Big Data

Policy & Internet, Forthcoming

16 Pages Posted: 24 Mar 2013

See all articles by Sandra González-Bailón

Sandra González-Bailón

University of Pennsylvania - Annenberg School for Communication

Date Written: March 22, 2013


Digital technologies keep track of everything we do and say while we are online, and we spend online an increasing portion of our time. Databases hidden behind web services and applications are constantly fed with information of our movements and communication patterns, and a significant dimension of our lives, quantified to unprecedented levels, gets stored in those vast online repositories. This article considers some of the implications of this torrent of data for social science research, and for the types of questions we can ask of the world we inhabit. The goal of the article is twofold: to explain why, in spite of all the data, theory still matters to build credible stories of what the data reveal; and to show how this allows social scientists to revisit old questions at the intersection of new technologies and disciplinary approaches. The article also considers how Big Data research can transform policy making, with a focus on how it can help us improve communication and governance in policy-relevant domains.

Keywords: networks, complexity, interactions, social influence, public opinion, governance

Suggested Citation

González-Bailón, Sandra, Social Science in the Era of Big Data (March 22, 2013). Policy & Internet, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN:

Sandra González-Bailón (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania - Annenberg School for Communication ( email )

Philadelphia, PA
United States

HOME PAGE: http://

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics