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Collective Stress in the Digital Age


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My Ph.D. proposal in computational social science.

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Collective Stress in the Digital Age

  1. 1. Collective Stress in the Digital Age Proposal for Ph.D. Research in Computational Social Science by Talha Oz Advisor: Andrew Crooks Committee: Arie Croitoru, William G. Kennedy, Anthony Stefanidis, Trevor A. Thrall Department of Computational and Data Sciences George Mason University – January 9, 2016
  2. 2. Overview 1. Introduction & Motivation • Definition of Collective Stress • C.S. in the Digital Age • Practical Problems • Trending • Multifaceted • Research Problems • Weak Empirical Base • Changing Norms/Conditions 2. Background • [RQ] Disaster Research • [Method] Crisis Informatics 3. CSS of Collective Stress • Opportunities • Challenges • Related Work 4. Research Plan • Research Questions • Research Design • Research Methods • Verification & Validation 5. Conclusion • Research Outcome • Contributions • Timeline
  3. 3. Collective Stress (CS) “A collective stress occurs when many members of a social system fail to receive expected conditions of life from the system” –Barton (1969) • Expected conditions of life • [Objective] Physiological and safety needs (Maslow, 1943) • Hunger, shelter, etc. • [Subjective] Maintaining standard of living (Barton, 1969) • Primitive conditions => relatively less deprivation • [Preconditions] for basic need satisfactions (Maslow, 1943) • Freedom and justice
  4. 4. 1010 Collective Stress Situations (c.s.s.) Events that disrupt or threaten the social systems • Dissensus (internal) • Technological and man-made disasters • Economic crises • depression, hyperinflation, or stock market crashes • Political breakdowns • riots, revolutions, civil wars • Government oppression • mass purges, suppression of dissent, and growth of tyranny • Consensus (external) • natural disasters, terror attacks, epidemic diseases, loss of markets or sources of supply
  5. 5. Motivation: Collective Stress in the Digital Age? • Practical Problems • Cause serious multifaceted social problems • Trending (frequency and impact is increasing) • Research Problems • Behavioral norms/conditions changing • Social media • Empirical base is weak • Unobservability problem (Wallace, 1956)
  6. 6. NatCatSERVICE Loss events worldwide 1980 – 2014 Number of events © 2015 Münchener Rückversicherungs-Gesellschaft, Geo Risks Research, NatCatSERVICE – As at January 2015 Number Meteorological events (Tropical storm, extratropical storm, convective storm, local storm) Hydrological events (Flood, mass movement) Climatological events (Extreme temperature, drought, forest fire) Geophysical events (Earthquake, tsunami, volcanic activity) 200 400 600 800 1 000 1980 1982 1984 1986 1988 1990 1992 1994 1996 1998 2000 2002 2004 2006 2008 2010 2012 2014 Source:
  7. 7. Source:
  8. 8. “Freedom in the World has recorded a decline in global freedom in each of the past 10 years” ttps://
  9. 9. Practical Problems (cont’d) - Multifaceted • Psychosocial (Norris et al., 2002) • Range • Specific (e.g. PTSD, depression, & anxiety) • Nonspecific (e.g. demoralization) • Health problems (e.g. sleep) • Chronic pr. in living (e.g. relationship pr.) • Resource loss (e.g. social embeddedness) • Problems specific to youth (e.g. clinginess) • Magnitude • 51% moderate impairment, indicative of prolonged stress • 39% severe or very severe impairment, indicative of significant psychopathology or distress • Sociodemographic • Destruction of household dwelling • Moving to other regions or fleeing • Conflictive (instead of therapeutic) • Social vulnerability (ethnic minorities) • Socioeconomic • Loss in asset value (recovery cost) • Operational vulnerability • Gap increases (lower income are worse) • Lost productivity and earning • Presenteeism (working w/ low mental) • Sociopolitical • Political disruptions & social activism • Scapegoating and blame (corrosive) • Government oppression
  10. 10. Motivation: Collective Stress in the Digital Age? • Practical Problems • Cause serious multifaceted social problems • Trending (frequency and impact is increasing) • Research Problems • Behavioral norms/conditions changing • Social media • Empirical base is weak • Unobservability problem (Wallace, 1956)
  11. 11. Research Problems – Empirical Weakness • Unobservability (Wallace, 1956) • Being in impact area & collecting data is difficult in collective stress situations • Disasters are rather rare events • The knowledge base is empirically weak • Quarantelli (2005) • Tierney, Lindell, and Perry (2001) • Drabek (1986) • The times they are a-changin’ • Earlier findings get outdated as the social, cultural and political norms change • Digital revolution (social network, internet, and mobile) is happening • From “Big Limitations” to “Big Data”
  12. 12. Research Problems – Behavior Change
  13. 13. Background • Disaster research (traditional social scientific studies of disasters) • Sociology, anthropology, political Science, economics • Crisis Informatics • CSS of Collective Stress
  14. 14. Traditional Social Sciences of Disasters • Sociology • Disaster myths, social control, social factors (age, gender, race, etc.) • Drabek’s Inventory contains 654 MC in 146 topics (6 system levels, 4 phases) • Anthropology • Cultural & historical; critical of media portrays, refugee camps • Political science • Elections, government spending, responsibility and blame • Economics • Incentives for gov. investment, economic impact
  15. 15. Crisis Informatics SI CSS DR CI: The study of the design, uses and consequences of information and communication technologies (ICT) in times of crisis (Kling 2007) • CI: System design • For digital volunteers: to allow them crowdsource (aka micro-task) productively • For official response agencies: to provide them with information in context for better decision making • CSS: Traditional social scientific inquiries • How to learn social behaviors re collective stress situations? • Beyond emergency response • CI & CSS: Big Crisis Data & Computational methods • Public posts, news reports, social networks
  16. 16. CSS of Collective Stress Social networks Public posts News reports Computational models Data analysis Social theories Recovery - Restoration - Reconstruction Mitigation - Adjustments - Hazard perceptions Response - Pre-impact - Post-impact Preparedness - Planning - Warning
  17. 17. Opportunities • Big • More specific measurements => models & theories • Allows analysis of many manifestations of a behavior • Allows detecting small differences with higher confidence levels • Always-on • Allows collecting retrospective and longitudinal data • Non-reactive • Subjects are unlikely to change their behaviors because of presence of researchers
  18. 18. Challenges • Incomplete & inaccessible • Demographics (representation, sampling challenge) • Construct validity (does it really represent what I intend to measure) • Drifting • Features of platforms change • The way people use changes • Algorithmically confounded • SM are engineered to induce specific behaviors (for-profit) • Dirty (spam, junk, bots) • Sensitive (privacy, ethics)
  19. 19. Related Work - 2013 Boston bombings • (Lin and Margolin, 2014) • Inter-communal emotions and expressions • Factors’ predictive power for the level of fear, sympathy and solidarity in cities • residents of a city visited the affected-city, geographic distance, and social tie • Proxies • Fear: Sentiments in SentiSense (fear and joy) • Solidarity: #bostonstrong • Sympathy: #prayforboston
  20. 20. 2015 Paris terror attacks • (Wen and Lin, 2016) • Individual differences in responding to the terrorist attacks • Factors: geographic proximity, media exposure, social support, linguistic indicators, and gender • Distress: anxiety, sadness, and anger • Proxies • LIWC: anxiety, sadness, and anger (supports both English and French) • Media exposure: URLs containing “terror” or “attack” • Social support: friends & followers count • Linguistic indicators: LIWC’s cognitive complexity and psychological distancing metrics • Gender: Genderize API
  21. 21. Research Plan • Research Questions • Research Design • Research Methods • Verification & Validation
  22. 22. Research Questions 1. Does partisan predisposition effect attribution of responsibility and blame? Is complaining contagious or clustered in man-made disasters? • Flint water crisis: complete governmental failure and a man-made disaster • The source for blame; partisan predisposition; concerned geographies; contagion of complaining. 2. [Position paper] What is CSS of c.s.s.? Opportunities and challenges? State of the art?
  23. 23. Research Questions – cont’d 1. Are collective stress levels higher in natural disasters than the technological ones (Rubonis and Bickman, 1991)? What are the c.s.s. related characteristics? • Mass violence > Technological (Natural) > Natural (Technological) Norris et al. (2002) 2. Who adopts which disaster paradigm in responding to c.s.s.? Do distress levels change for the adopters of different paradigms? • People’s sinful behavior; divine justice, repentance, moral improvement • Nature; technical-organizational solutions, short term political actions • Structural inequality, social injustice; social change, large-scale political reforms • Culture; victims’ perception of own suffering, utilization of local resources
  24. 24. Design • Important RQs on c.s.s. yet science is unclear • Lack of studies or conflicting findings • More specific practical hypotheses • Operationalization • From theoretical construct to proxies • Ensuring construct validity • Type of study (e.g. panel study, focus group, cohort) Research questions (based on my review on TSSDR) Find and collect c.s.s. data ( or own) Hypotheses (Practical) Operationalization (On social media) Interpreting Results (Statistical tests and visualizations)
  25. 25. Methods & Analysis • Social Network Analysis • Metrics at indiv, dyad, network level • ERGM, SAOM • Geospatial Analysis • Choropleth Maps • Quantitative Analysis • Uni-, multi-variate analysis, etc. • Machine Learning • Classification and Clustering
  26. 26. Verification & Validation • Implementing all the design steps right • Data collection • “if you want to measure change, don’t change the measure” • Data exploration • Statistical summaries • Jupyter Notebook & GitHub • Open source & public • Doing the right thing • Collection • Sampling techniques • Operationalization • Construct validity • Analysis • Cross validation
  27. 27. Conclusion • Research Outcomes • Contributions • Timeline
  28. 28. Research Outcomes • Four papers • Attribution of Responsibility and Blame • Comparison of Collective Stress Levels at Different Kinds of Events • Disaster Paradigms and Collective Stress • [Position paper] CSS of Collective Stress
  29. 29. Contributions • Adding to the knowledge base of sociology of disasters and related fields with new empirical findings about the characteristics of collective stress situations in the digital age • Developing models that can account for the observed variations in social responses over many cases of collective stress situations • Contributing to the field of computational social science by building novel research designs, developing new computational and quantitative methods, and by exploiting newly available data sources (big crisis data)
  30. 30. Timeline
  31. 31. Questions • Thank you!
  32. 32. The Digital Age • Behaviors not so unobservable (Resnyansky, 2015; Houston et al., 2015) • Volunteers help locate disaster victims; identify and list ways to help • Raise and develop awareness of an event • Provide and receive mental/behavioral health support • Express emotions, concerns, well-wishes; memorialize victims • Collect recovery support funds; donate and receive donations • Consume, produce, and share news coverage of the event • Discuss socio-political and scientific causes and implications of and responsibility for events
  33. 33. The Digital Age – cont’d • The ways people experience & respond to collective stress are CHANGING • Individuals turn to social media in response & recovery (Dailey and Starbird 2016) • Emotions expressed on SM are contagious (Kramer et al. 2014; Oz and Bisgin 2016) • Legacy media exposure increases stress levels (Holman 2014), so does SM • Globalization leads to cosmopolitanization (Beck 2002), effects c.s.s. at macro-scale • Networked individualism: connectedness vs embeddedness (Rainie & Wellman 2014) • SM amplifies echo chambers and group identification => c.s.++ (Quattrociocchi 2016) • Increased awareness in the digital age raises expectation from the gov. & the society. As solutions are delayed, ignored or obstructed, fear turns into anger (Neal 1984)
  34. 34. 2011 Alabama tornado & 2012 Sandy Hook shooting • (Glasgow et al. 2016) • Compared the expressions of gratitude for social support • Alabama had proportionally fewer expressions of gratitude for the support received
  35. 35. Research Problems – Sociology • Drabek’s inventory (1986): 654 major conclusions in 146 topics over • 6 system levels: Individual, group, organizational, community, society, and international • 4 disaster phases: preparedness (planning and warning), response (pre- and post-impact), recovery (restoration and reconstruction), and mitigation (hazard perceptions and adjustments) • (When) should we expect social chaos and panic? • When does conflict rather than solidarity emerge? • What are the roles of social factors (e.g. gender, race, diversity or social inequalities)? • What kind of organizations can cope with the overload of collective stress situations?
  36. 36. Research Problems – Anthropology • Historical & cultural • How did people respond to catastrophes a thousand years ago and how did these effect the subsequent cultural evolution? • How does contemporary social order (consumption-based industry) intensify hazards and further effect the societies all over the world? • How does a culture interpret disasters and how does it change after experiencing them? • Critical of • the way media portrays the victims • how the displaced are treated in refugee camps • relief programs (how culturally aware are they and how can they be improved?)
  37. 37. Research Problems – Political Science • How do collective stress situations effect elections? • How do the voters judge incumbent politicians in their preparedness and response to them? • How do citizens assign responsibility and blame in collective stress situations? • How effectively do the governments use the humanitarian aid? • To what extent is the government accountable for the collective stress situations? • When do collective stress situations foster cooperation or conflict?
  38. 38. Research Problems – Economics • To what extent the economy of a country affected by the collective stress situation? • Why do some governments prepare well for c.s.s. while others do not? • What are the economic and political incentives of the governments in their c.s.s. related investments?