Center for Studies in Demography and Ecology

Lee Fiorio and Connor Gilroy Use Social Media Data to Understand the World

Posted: 3/23/2019 (CSDE Research)

Lee Fiorio, Geography doctoral student, and Connor Gilroy, Sociology doctoral student, are CSDE Trainees, former Funded Fellows, and leaders of the Computational Demography Working Group. The UW College of Arts & Sciences has recently published a story featuring their incredible research at the leading edge of data science and social science.

Both Fiorio, who focuses on migration across the US and the globe, and Gilroy, who looks at our willingness to share information about our sexual identity, use traditional sources like the US Census, but they find that the massive quantities of data generated through social media or cell phone use — digital trace data — provide a particularly rich snapshot of society. “The data are generated in real time, they are generated very quickly, and that’s very different from a traditional demographic data source like the US Census, which comes out once every ten years,” says Gilroy. According to Fiorio, “the research is about methodology — seeing what digital trace data can tell us that might be missing when we go about estimating migration in the standard, traditional way.”

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