In just the past several years, we have witnessed the birth and rapid spread of social media, mobile phones, and numerous other digital marvels. In addition to changing how we live, these tools enable us to collect and process data about human behavior on a scale never before imaginable, offering entirely new approaches to core questions about social behavior. Bit by Bit is the key to unlocking these powerful methods—a landmark book that will fundamentally change how the next generation of social scientists and data scientists explores the world around us.
Bit by Bit is the essential guide to mastering the key principles of doing social research in this fast-evolving digital age. In this comprehensive yet accessible book, Matthew Salganik explains how the digital revolution is transforming how social scientists observe behavior, ask questions, run experiments, and engage in mass collaborations. He provides a wealth of real-world examples throughout and also lays out a principles-based approach to handling ethical challenges.
Bit by Bit is an invaluable resource for social scientists who want to harness the research potential of big data and a must-read for data scientists interested in applying the lessons of social science to tomorrow’s technologies.
- Illustrates important ideas with examples of outstanding research
- Combines ideas from social science and data science in an accessible style and without jargon
- Goes beyond the analysis of “found” data to discuss the collection of “designed” data such as surveys, experiments, and mass collaboration
- Features an entire chapter on ethics
- Includes extensive suggestions for further reading and activities for the classroom or self-study
Awards and Recognition
- Winner of the 2019 PROSE Award in Textbook / Social Sciences, Association of American Publishers
- Winner of the AAPOR Book Award, American Association for Public Opinion Research
"Salganik is one of the first natural-born computational social scientists, a sociologist whose doctoral work was one of the early landmark projects in the field. Bit by Bit is 90% textbook, 10% biography, putting into personal context issues that Salganik was among the first to wrestle with. . . . The text is clearly written—even breezy, in parts. It puts the reader in the shoes of the researcher: What decisions were made, why, and were those the best choices? It is suitable for an advanced undergraduate or graduate class in methodology, with a rigorous, mathematical appendix and a range of useful problems at the conclusion of each chapter."—David Lazer, Science
"This is a book to return to time and again. . . . Bit by Bit should be widely read by those engaging in social research, as well as beyond."—Farida Vis, Times Higher Education
"An enticing and important field guide to the new frontier of digital social research that will be of interest whether one is trying to figure out how to do more evidence-based policymaking or simply sell more toothpaste online. Impeccably organized and beautifully written in clear and accessible prose, the book doubles as a methods textbook for university students studying social and data sciences (or any field where research is at the center)."—Beth Noveck, Forbes
"Given the book’s breadth, it is a recommended read for all scholars interested in the role that the internet and big data can play in social research."—Tatsiana Amosaya, Canadian Journal of Sociology
"The implications and potential for social science arising from the availability of large amounts of data have been comparatively overlooked. This book provides a welcome insight into what can be achieved, and also an exemplar curriculum for graduate studies."—Thomas King, Journal of the Royal Statistical Society
"A timely and important must-read for anyone interested in the intersection of social science and big data."—Magdalena Wojcieszak, International Journal of Press/Politics
"In this engaging book about the evidence base of social scientific discovery, Matthew Salganik takes us on an important journey—from asking people their opinions, to watching and recording what people do, to noticing when the world inadvertently creates research data, to convincing research subjects to collect data for us, and even to recruiting thousands of citizens, citizen-scientists, and social scientists to collaborate in data collection and analysis."—Gary King, Harvard University
"Digital data is transforming social science, driving exciting innovations in methods while also raising difficult questions about reliability, relevance, and ethics. Written by one of the world's most respected computational social scientists, Bit by Bit addresses the benefits as well as the pitfalls of leveraging digital data for scientific insight. The result is a highly readable yet intellectually rigorous introduction to the brave new world of computational social science."—Duncan Watts, Microsoft Research
"This thoughtful, elegant, and entertaining book will be the how-to manual for doing exciting social science in the digital age. For anyone who wants to do experiments in an ethically sound way, it will be indispensable."—Helen Margetts, director of the Oxford Internet Institute
"A tremendously useful introduction for data scientists to the pressing questions of the social sciences, and for social scientists to the mindset and toolset of data science. With skill and scholarly insight, Salganik addresses the ethical questions that arise at the intersection of data science and social science."—Chris Wiggins, Columbia University
"Bit by Bit is, by far, the best and most up-to-date book on modern social science. Salganik writes compellingly and inspiringly. He has done a wonderful job of collecting a diverse set of meaningful examples and describing how they are important in language anyone can understand."—Sean Taylor, research scientist, Facebook
"This book is a gem—a rare combination of a highly accessible and engaging writing style coupled with an introduction to advanced computational methods for collecting and analyzing observational and experimental data."—Michael Macy, Cornell University