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December 25, 2007

But, What Kind Of Culture Is Being Studied? [12:09 am]

Or, alternatively, what exactly is being studied? On Facebook, Scholars Link Up With Data

To study how personal tastes, habits and values affect the formation of social relationships and how social relationships affect tastes, habits and values, a team of researchers from Harvard and the University of California, Los Angeles, are monitoring the Facebook profiles of an entire class of students at one college, which they declined to name because it could compromise the integrity of their research.

“One of the holy grails of social science is the degree to which taste determines friendship, or to which friendship determines taste,” said Jason Kaufman, an associate professor of sociology at Harvard and a member of the research team. “Do birds of a feather flock together, or do you become more like your friends?”

In other words, Facebook — where users rate one another as “hot or not,” play games like “Pirates vs. Ninjas” and throw virtual sheep at one another — is helping scholars explore fundamental social science questions.

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