Blog Archives

A review of social science research using Facebook

A quick-ish post just to point you towards a fascinating review published last month in Perspectives in Psychological Science: Wilson, Gosling and Graham (2012) A review of Facebook research in the social sciences. These authors review a set of 412 (!) studies that have been published, all since Facebook was launched in 2004. One of the striking figures in their review is this one, which highlights both the meteoric increase in Facebook users (currently over 800 million) and the parallel growth in research papers which have used Facebook as a means to gather data:

Figure 1 from Wilson, Gosling and Graham (2012). People like using Facebook, and researchers apparently *really* like people who like using Facebook.

The 412 research reports were divided into five broad-ish categories, in terms of their aims:

1. Who is using Facebook?
2. Why do people use Facebook?
3. How are people presenting themselves on Facebook?
4. How is Facebook affecting relationships among groups and individuals?
5. Why are people disclosing information on Facebook despite potential risks?

The authors suggest that, as well as just being a descriptive characterisation of the literature, these five central questions might serve as a common framework for future research in other online social networks, especially research which seeks to compare patterns of usage across two or more networks. Seems reasonable.

Also of interest (to me, anyway) is Appendix B which details the major data collection methods used by the studies, and also discusses some ethical considerations. It notes that some researchers have built custom applications for Facebook in order to collect data, but that these applications are not always successful in attracting a large user-base, i.e. some ‘go viral’ and some do not. This seems like an opportunity to do some interesting ‘meta’-research; a study of which research-driven applications are successful, and which aren’t!

Online social networks are an important part of many people’s social lives nowadays, and it seems unlikely that their influence has even come close to peaking yet; we can only expect that take-up and usage of these social tools will carry on increasing (and perhaps even accelerating) for some time. It’s good to see that social scientists have embraced these new ways that we all interact and are making serious efforts to describe and evaluate them.


Movies, the science of dream-hacking and some blatant self-promotion

A very minimal post just to point you towards something else I’ve written that you might find of interest. It’s putatively a review of the film ‘Inception’ but I end up talking about some other movies too, and especially about some recent developments in neuroscience that are related to the ideas in the films. You can read it here at Scientific Kitty. There’s lots of other great reviews by scientists on SK as well (including my earlier review of ‘Limitless’) so make sure you have a good poke around while you’re there.


The HP DM1-3200SA – the perfect student computer?

A while ago I did a post on how to choose a computer for studying but shied away from making any specific recommendations. This is partly because reviews of specific machines would date pretty quickly, and I didn’t really want to make this site into a load of hardware reviews.* However I recently got my hands on one of these little beauties:

The Hewlett Packard DM1-3200SA. Oooh... sexy.

It’s a Hewlett Packard Pavilion DM1-3200SA laptop. It’s basically like a netbook-on-steroids – small enough to carry around really easily, but with enough power under the hood to get the job done. The screen is 11.6 inches – this might be a little small for a lot of people, but personally I find the 12-13″ range to be the sweet-spot in terms of the compromise between portability and usefulness; it’s also only 1.6kg in weight. It’s got an AMD 1.6Ghz dual-core processor and 3GB of RAM (up to 1.4Gb of which can be allocated to video RAM) so it can handle pretty much anything you want with grace and ease. The 320Gb hard drive and 1366×768 screen are pretty standard features, but not bad at all. HP reckons you can get up to 9.5 hours from the battery, but 7-8 would probably be more realistic – still excellent though. The keyboard is near-as-dammit full-size, and pretty comfortable for typing. My only complaint about using it was the trackpad was a little small (understandably, it’s a small computer after all) and the multi-touch implementation (two-finger scrolling, etc.) was a bit unresponsive. It’s possible this will be fixed in a future driver update though, and to be fair I’m comparing it to the multi-touch trackpad on my MacBook Pro which is best-in-class. Actually, having any kind of multi-touch trackpad on a laptop at this price point is pretty impressive.

Which brings me to arguably its best feature – the price. It’s available now from and a few other places for £319 – an absolute honest-to-goodness, stone-cold bloody bargain! Particularly when you consider there’s a Sony model also available at the moment which has an almost identical specification, but is more than twice the price. So, for my money, I reckon this laptop might be the perfect student computer – light and with enough battery life to make lugging it to a whole day of lectures possible, but powerful enough to handle chewing through editing videos of drunken nights out if necessary.

Here’s the full spec sheet on the HP site, and here’s a more in-depth review from the gadget gurus at Engadget (they gave it 8 out of 10). One last thing – confusingly, there’s an older HP model also called the DM1 with a silver keyboard – don’t get that one, the spec isn’t quite as good – make sure you get one with the black keyboard! Also, if you do get one, the first thing you should do is spend a couple of hours uninstalling all the crapware that HP puts on it as standard – Media players/editors, and Norton trials etc. Ugh – wish manufacturers would stop doing that.

Happy laptopping! TTFN

*Although if any manufacturer wants to send me any of their new sexy gear to review, that would make me very happy. No? Oh well… worth a try.