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Socio-technical Systems Under Stress

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Brian Keegan
Computational Social Scientist and Research Associate, Harvard Business School‘s HBX


NSH 1305

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Socio-technical Systems Under Stress Socio-technical systems can face intense stresses arising from unusual patterns of human social behavior. Misinformation can propagate rapidly through social networks like Twitter despite the availability of fact-checking websites. Wikipedia's encyclopedia articles are used to document changes to breaking news events. Procrastinators on MOOCs create emergent support groups on the eve of a deadline. These episodes are more than unusual boundary cases, but rather point to the need to design systems that anticipate the need for social interaction, support sensemaking under uncertainty, and adapt to highly synchronous use. Drawing on my research across these different online platforms, I explore how the user behavior recorded by socio-technical systems under stress reveal fascinating patterns of social behavior that can inform the development of new theories and features.

Speaker's Bio

Brian Keegan is a computational social scientist and research associate at the Harvard Business School's HBX massively open online course (MOOC) platform. He was previously a post-doc in David Lazer's lab at Northeastern University where his work focused on online political behavior and web experiments. He received his Communication PhD in 2012 from Northwestern University and his dissertation examined the history, structure, and dynamics of Wikipedia's coverage of breaking news events. He draws on theories and methods from network science, social computing, computer-mediated communication, and organizational studies to understand high-tempo online collaboration. His research has been published in CSCW, ICWSM, WWW, American Behavioral Scientist, and PLoS ONE.

Jeff Bigham