88718 : Large-Scale Social Phenomena

All course content, zoom links, and announcements are on our canvas site. Class in 2020 is hybrid-synchronous.

2020 Final Presentations

Final presentations are 15 minutes + 5 minutes of Q&A.
Visitors from local Universities (CMU, Pitt, Duquesne, Point Park, &c) are welcome; e-mail sdedeo[at]andrew.cmu.edu from your University .edu account for Zoom link.

Unemployment and Political Speech: Evidence from Reddit Users
Daniel Connolly (dconnol2)
6:45 pm to 7:05 pm

How do people's politics change after a direct interaction with the welfare state? Receiving a transfer payment in a time of need could increase support for the welfare state. On the other hand, if an interaction with the transfer payment system is negative or frustrating, people might decrease their support for transfer payments generally. I approach this question using a novel dataset: Reddit activity by users who post on r/unemployment. Compared to a set of control users, I find that users who make a post on r/unemployment discuss politics more frequently afterwards, and that speech becomes more similar to speech by liberals on Reddit and less similar to speech by conservatives.

Learning to Deviate: Investigating the behavioral trajectory of users in online communities
Chase McDonald (chasemcd)
7:05 pm to 7:25 pm

Through a quantitative analysis of user post submissions on Reddit, I investigate the process by which individuals integrate into online communities and learn behavior. I demonstrate that, in aggregate, the novelty of user submissions increases as a function of the number of posts in a community. This is to say that as individuals become more active, their online actions are increasingly divergent from what may be called normative behavior.

Evaluating the Impact of Federal Policies on Educational Research Using Topic Models
Trent Cash (tcash)
7:25 pm to 7:45 pm

Prior research has shown that various research domains are susceptible to trends, wherein certain topics become more or less popular over time (e.g., Cohen Priva & Austerweil, 2015). This study evaluated trends in educational research from 1960-2016 by conducting Latent Dirichlet Allocation, a form of topic modeling, on a corpus of 11,376 articles from five top peer-reviewed educational journals. Results from this study suggest that educational research is susceptible to trends, but that some topics, such as Teachers and Teaching, simply are not affected by trends because they are so integral to the field. Furthermore, an analysis of changes in the popularity of the identified topics following the implementation of No Child Left Behind and the Common Core Initiative indicates that the popularity of some topics (e.g., Race, Achievement) is responsive to policy changes, whereas the popularity of other topics (e.g., ELA, Testing) is not. Qualitative evaluations suggest that topics regarding how we measure success and how we research are most susceptible to changes in popularity following policy changes. These results have important implications for policymakers and researchers alike, as understanding these trends can assist them in ensuring that the best possible distribution of research topics are receiving funding and attention.

Hidden Grammars of Jazz
Zachary Patterson (zpatters)
7:45 pm to 8:05 pm

When a musician improvises, she typically constrains her music to properties of a specific arrangement, such as the rhythm, scale, or chord progression. While these constraints dramatically reduce the space of possible improvisations, they leave a still large space for the musician to draw from. Because the process of improvisation must happen rapidly and on the spot, at least some of this process is hidden from the musicians themselves. In this work, I will seek to discover the hidden grammars behind this process for a corpus of jazz music. HMMs will be used to discover hidden states throughout the corpus and the relationships between those states will be evaluated by information theoretic measures. These methods will be used to compare jazz music across eras to elicit the implicit ways in which jazz performance changed over the 20th century.

[ten minute break]

Belief Formation on Networks: a Simulation Study
Leqi Liu (leqil)
8:15 pm to 8:35 pm

People hold beliefs and express them. These beliefs are then propagated and received by others. Although many factors have played in this process, we look into the effect of how one interprets others' beliefs and the structure of the belief propagation on the aggregated belief of a community. The key premise here is that even if people are rational in updating their beliefs on others' beliefs, they may be irrational when deciding upon who to trust. In a world where there is no additional signals but only other beliefs, we explore how beliefs flow.

The collaborations of people behind the Internet
Maggie Oates (moates)
8:35 pm to 8:55 pm

The history of Internet communication is curious because it rooted in American academic labs and stayed there for much longer compared to other infrastructure technologies. The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) is the Internet's standards governing body. To this day, there is no formal membership, standards are non-binding, participation costs are relatively low, decisions are made via "rough consensus," and there is strong resistance against government regulation. In practice, this means that proposing a standard is as much a political process as it is a technical one.

The Splintering of Spanish Politics
Alex Cabrera (acabrera)
8:55 pm to 9:15 pm

Spain’s parliamentary government has been dominated by two parties for the majority of the past 50 years, but in the last 10 there has been a dramatic shift. Multiple new parties have emerged and taken significant numbers of parliamentary seats, forcing coalitions between the establishment parties and new parties. The three major new groups, far-left, centrist, and far-right parties, are now major players in Spanish politics and are fundamentally changing the dynamics of the political system. To better understand the emergence and dynamics of these new patterns, we will run a large-scale analysis of text from speeches in the Congreso de los Diputados, the main parliamentary chamber of the Spanish government. We will run topic models on the speeches to discover the main ideologies expressed by each party, and do timeseries analysis to see how the distribution of topics has changed over time. By combining these macro analyses with existing political science analysis, we hope to find compelling patterns of how and why these parties managed to succeed in the last 10 years. This deeper analysis of Spain’s restructuring will provide a concrete case study of the populist changes being felt throughout the world in the last 10 years.