Twitter-based study on food trucks, born at ICOS data camp, presented to American Sociological Association

By August 21, 2014News

Todd Schifeling, a U-M doctoral candidate of sociology, said he came to last year’s Big Data Boot Camp held by the Interdisciplinary Committee on Organizational Studies with a “deep distrust of the relevance of online data for social science and a limited ability to access this data.” A little over a year later, Schifeling and a colleague from Northwestern University presented a study to the American Sociological Association this month that overcame both of those obstacles. The study uses data from Twitter to identify the factors that lead to the spread of food trucks. “Virtually all these trucks are online and use Twitter to connect with customers, especially if they change locations,” Schifeling said. “So we were able to avoid the sampling errors that often happen as a result of using social media as data.” For a full description of the study, please read this U-M News Service article. Schifeling credited the instructors at the ICOS workshop, which was co-sponsored by ARC, with giving him the tools and vision to pursue the project. “The camp also provided the space and discussion partners to imagine how online data could be invaluable for sociological research,” he said. “Online data is rapidly growing in relevance and interest for social scientists, and programs like this are needed to realize the potential knowledge gains.”