Research – University of Copenhagen

Social Fabric > Research


Human behavior is to a large extent determined by social interactions. Traditionally, however, social networks have been difficult to map, and most data have typically contained only thin slices of the web of social interactions that envelop us. The digitalization of modern society has changed this fundamentally: Every cell phone call, credit card transaction, shared photograph, online comment, and email check is recorded in a database somewhere. Almost every aspect of our daily lives is being captured in great detail, resulting in so-called ‘big data.’ However, studies have so far failed to produce as compelling results as one might have hoped because the quality of the data sets often is quite low. While databases with data on millions of users are abundant, each database contains only a fraction of the relevant information regarding the specific user.

The overarching goal of the Social Fabric project is to address these limitations and to push the current boundaries of quantitatively as well as qualitatively based understandings of social networks by measuring and utilizing a new source of data, the social fabric, which consists of recordings of social interactions at all communications channels at very high resolution, for a larger group of people than has been attempted before. This is effectuated through the distribution of smartphones to 1000 freshmen at the Technical University of Denmark, each of which is equipped with an app that logs social interaction on all relevant channels: face-to-face, mail, phone, sms, facebook etc. as well as the ability to couple this data with answers to surveys and with register data.

The resulting data set is of unprecedented size and quality and will allow researchers from a broad range of backgrounds to answer a wide array of research questions, loosely grouped under the three captions:

1) Information and influence in the social fabric: How does information spread in social networks, across communication channels, and how does the social fabric aggregate information to be used for predictive purposes?

2) Friendships, networks and interaction: The fact that the experiment monitors a social network during its formation allows for answering of questions on how friendships and networks form. Furthermore it will be investigated how offline and online behaviors and personalities correspond to each other, and how human interaction is mediated by digital media use?

3) Studying ‘Big data’: As well as supplying empirical data, the experiment will serve as a research object in itself. With the advent of Big Data as a high profile research topic questions regarding ethics and methodology in the field become important, and these will be addressed within the Social Fabric project.

Each of the participating departments has supplied a more comprehensive description of their specific research topics and their contribution towards addressing the fundamental research questions. Please read more about the sub projects 1-6 by clicking in the left hand menu.