Facebook's Private Sociology Conference

Facebook will be holding a sociology conference at its headquarters to recruit social scientists to use its data, according to reports.

Facebook will be holding the conference just before the American Sociological Association 2014 Annual Meeting in August, according to VentureBeat. Apparently Facebook will have shuttles from San Francisco to its headquarters in Menlo Park, Callf. According to VentureBeat, the Facebook conference will focus on “techniques related to data collection with the advent of social media and increased interconnectivity across the world.”

The organizers of the Facebook conference are reportedly Peter Brandon and Michael Corey, both sociologists; Brandon from the University of Albany, SUNY and Corey from the University of Chicago. Corey, who studies how bringing work home affects family time, has been a researcher at Facebook for the last year. His team also helps to expand Facebook to developing countries to sell more advertising, according to VentureBeat, something that most of the papers presented at the conference will have in common, such as "Using Social Media to Engage the Hard-to-Reach Populations." 

So why would sociologists be interested in Facebook? Because of its amazing amount of data. Where else would sociologists have access to millions of people but Facebook? Not only having access to their information, but also being able to study their detailed social interactions online.

Facebook may also be planning to highlight their data tools that can eclipse typical research software and help social scientists.

Lauren Beresford is a UC Berkeley-trained sociologist not affiliated with Facebook, but who works at baby monitor startup Sproutling. “I think that sociology departments should focus on training their students to use open-source software rather than traditional, expensive software packages,” Beresford told VentureBeat. 

Companies have been using social scientists for years. Microsoft principal researcher Danah Boyd (often written as danah boyd)  is a social media scholar known for being one of the most influential women in technology. Sociologists, who study human behavior, are also imperative for most advertisers and marketing companies, because it's a "soft science" that leads technology companies to more money.

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