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BIGSSS-CSS 2022 Travel Report

By Zarine Kharazian

July 2022

This summer I attended the BIGSSS-CSS Summer School on Social Cohesion at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, a two-week research incubator focused on fostering the application of computational social science methods to problems of social cohesion. In between attending lectures, as part of a project team, I spent the two weeks researching the role of YouTube in the development of online echo chambers across both political and non-political topics. The two weeks culminated in a presentation of preliminary results by each team, and the project work will likely continue for a few more months as we prepare a manuscript for publication. 

In between working sessions, I attended a variety of lectures and hands-on workshops on agent-based modeling, utilizing “big” digital trace data, and other CSS methods. I appreciated the disciplinary breath of both the participants and the topics – I had the opportunity to meet and collaborate with computer scientists, sociologists, political scientists, and researchers from several other disciplines who were all interested in using CSS methods in their work to model or investigate various aspects of social phenomena and human behavior.

Before attending, I was not familiar with the “research incubator” model where researchers come together to form teams, and do intense project work for two weeks with the goal of presenting some results at the end. But I found the time pressure encouraged us to make choices in our study design and framing efficiently, and it was helpful to get feedback on our preliminary results from researchers from different disciplines during the Q&A portion of our presentation. I am looking forward to seeing where our project goes!