RWTH: Computational Social Sciences

Scientists from RWTH Aachen University, Northwestern University (USA), Northeastern University (USA) and the Microsoft Research Lab (USA and Canada) examine the methodological challenges in researching algorithmic societies in a current work. These are societies that are significantly influenced by algorithms, ie whose character is shaped by algorithmic and human behavior. The research results have now been published in the renowned journal Nature under the title Measuring Algorithmically Infused Societies .

It is the historical responsibility of the social sciences to study human societies. Fulfilling this responsibility requires social theories, measurement models and social data. Most of these existing theories and models, however, were not developed against the background of the deep social embedding of algorithms. According to the article, the emergence of algorithmic societies shows three main problems: the problematic quality of current social science measurements, the complex consequences of incorrect measurements and the limits of existing social theories.

Solving these challenges requires new theories that take into account the effects of algorithmic systems on social realities. In order to develop such models, new methods are needed to integrate data and measurements into the development of theories. “In general, such measurement models must be trustworthy and verifiable. For this, the development of measurements should be transparent and participatory and include mechanisms to ensure quality and detect possible measurement errors, ”explains Professor Markus Strohmaier from the Chair for Methodology and Theory of Computer-Based Humanities and Social Sciences in Faculty 7.

The focus of the research is the understanding of socio-technical phenomena such as inequality, discrimination, polarization as well as other social challenges in algorithmic societies and the methodological problems that arise empirically when researching these phenomena. The social limits of the applicability of algorithms and their effects on our societies play an essential role.

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