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Research

Three major goals guide my sociological research.  First, and most fundamentally, I seek to develop insights into how collective outcomes emerge from the combination of social context, individual level attributes, and the structure of social interaction.  I am particularly interested in studying how social roles combine aspects of structure and interaction in shaping these outcomes. Second, I am interested in developing and applying methods for studying these dynamics using data derived from computer mediated interaction.  Third, I apply insights from my research to better understand how and why social life is changing in contemporary society.  In particular, I am interested in how technological developments that affect social interaction and alter people’s capacity for collective action are changing the nature of social groups, organizations, sub-cultures and institutions.  These three goals, to varying extents, combine and overlap in my research and teaching.


Social roles in online community


My work on social roles in online community began with “Picturing Usenet” (2005), and continues through several subsequent published works. This work advances the conceptualization of social roles to researchers studying social media and online community and develops an integrated approach to understanding social roles rooted both in social psychological and social structural conceptualizations.

  1. Welser, Howard T., Dan Cosley, Gueorgi Kossinets, Austin Lin, Fedor Dokshin, Geri Gay, and Marc Smith. 2011. “Finding social roles in Wikipedia.”  (pp. 122-129). In ACM proceedings of iConference 2011, Seattle, WA.
  2. Gleave, Eric, Howard T. Welser, Marc Smith, and Thomas Lento.  2009.  “A conceptual and operational definition of social role in online community.”  (pp. 1-11). In Proceedings of the 42nd  Hawaii International Conference on Systems Sciences (HICSS). Computer Society Press.  
  3. Welser, Howard T., Eric Gleave, Danyel Fisher, and Marc Smith.  2007.  “Visualizing the signatures of social roles in online discussion groups.”  The Journal of Social Structure.  8(2).   
  4. Danyel Fisher, Marc Smith, and Howard T. Welser. 2006. “You are who you talk to: Detecting roles in usenet groups.” (pp. 1-10). In Proceedings of the 39th Hawaii International Conference on Systems Sciences (HICSS). Computer Society Press.  
  5. Turner, Tammara, Marc Smith, Danyel Fisher and Howard T. Welser.  2005. “Picturing Usenet: mapping computer-mediated collective action.”  Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication.  10 (4).  

Content analysis and social roles


A directly related body of work has combined the investigation of social roles in a variety of online communities with the development of content analysis coding schemes that focus on the different ways people participate in online communities.  
  1. Black, Laura W., Howard T. Welser, Dan Cosley and Jocelyn M. DeGroot.  2011. “Self-governance through group discussion in Wikipedia: Measuring deliberation in online groups.”  Small Group Research.  41(5):595-634.
  2. Welser, Howard T., Eric Gleave, Vladimir Barash, Marc Smith, and Jessica Meckes. 2009.  “Whither the experts?  Social affordances and the cultivation of experts in community Q&A systems.”  (pp. 45-50).  In Symposium on Social Intelligence and Networking, IEEE.   
  3. Barash, Vladimir, Marc Smith, Lise Getoor, and Howard T. Welser. 2009.  “Distinguishing knowledge vs. social capital in social media with roles and context.” (pp. 1-4).  In ICWSM 2009, Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence. San Jose, CA.    

Social structure


I work on a variety of projects investigating social structure and social interaction using data derived at least partly through online systems

  1. Robbins, Blaine, Howard T. Welser, Maria Gregoriya, and Eric Gleave.  2014. “Power-use in cooperative competition: A power-dependence model and an empirical test of network structure and geographic mobility.” Social Science Research. 45:131-151.
  2. Brooks, Brandon, Howard T. Welser, Bernie Hogan, and Scott Tittsworth.  2011. “Socioeconomic status updates. ” Information, Communication and Society.  14(4):529-549.
  3. Yuan, Y. Connie, Dan Cosley, Howard T. Welser, Ling Xia and Gerri Gay. 2009.  “The diffusion of a task recommendation system to facilitate contributions to an online community.” Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication.  15(1) 32-59.
  4. Lento, Thomas, Eric Gleave, Marc Smith, and Howard T. Welser. 2008.  “Some users pack a Wallop: Measuring the impact of core users on the participation of others in online social systems.” (pp. 1-2) ICWSM ‘08, Seattle, WA, USA.  
  5. Lento, Thomas, Howard T. Welser, Lei Gu, and Marc Smith. 2006. “The ties that blog: Examining the relationship between social ties and continued participation in the Wallop weblogging system.” (pp.  1-8).  WWW Third Annual Workshop on the Weblogging Ecosystem, Edinburgh, Scotland.  

Research methods and computational social science


I am interested in developing and applying methods for studying social dynamics using data derived from computer mediated interaction
  1. Welser, Howard T., Patrick Underwood, Dan Cosley, Derek Hansen, and Laura Black. 2010. “Wiki-networks:  Connections of creativity and collaboration.” Derek Hansen, Ben Shneiderman, & Marc Smith (Eds.), Analyzing Social Media Networks with NodeXL, (pp. 248-271).  New York: Morgan Kaufmann.
  2. Welser, Howard T., Lento, Tom, Smith, Marc A. Gleave, Eric., & Himelboim, Itai. 2009. “A picture is worth a thousand questions: visualization techniques for discovery in computer mediated interaction.”  Nicholas Jankowski (Ed.), e-Research: Transformations in Scholarly Practice. (pp.183-202). London:  Routledge.
  3. Welser, Howard. T., Smith, Marc. Gleave, Eric, & Fisher, Danyel. 2008. “Distilling digital traces: Computational social science approaches to studying the internet.” In N. Fielding, R. L. Lee and G. Grant (Eds.), Handbook of online research methods. (pp 116-140). London:  Sage Publications.  

Analytic models of social processes


 I am interested in the development of analytic methods for the exploration and testing of models of social outcomes.
  1. Welser, Howard T., Eric Gleave, and Deborah Vaughan. 2007. “Cultural evolution, disproportionate prior exposure and the problem of cooperation.” Rationality and Society. 19(2): 171-202.
  2. Kiser, Edgar and Howard T. Welser. 2007.  “The microfoundations of analytic narratives”   Sociologica: The Italian Journal of Sociology on line.  Issue: 3: 1-19.  
  3. Welser, Howard T. 2006.  “A theory of status achievement.”  Dissertation.  University of Washington.

Technology and social change


I apply insights from my research to better understand how and why social life is changing in contemporary society.  In particular, I am interested in how technological developments that affect social interaction and alter people’s capacity for collective action are changing the nature of social groups, organizations, sub-cultures and institutions.
  1. Welser, Howard T. 2014. “Breaking the iron law of oligarchy: Computational institutions, organizational fidelity, and distributed social control.” Edited by Elisa Bertino and Sorin Adam Matei, Roles, Trust, and Reputation in Social Media Knowledge Markets: Theory and Methods (pp. 121-144) New York: Springer Publishing.
  2. Welser, Howard T. Project in Progress. Agents Beyond Control. Talk presented at Purdue University. Paper
  3. Welser, Howard T. 2012 “The growth of technology and the end of wilderness experience.”  Edited by Bruce Martin and Mark Wagstaff,  Controversial Issues in Adventure Programming, (pp. 147-155) Champaign IL: Human Kinetics Publishing.
  4. Underwood, Patrick and Howard T. Welser.   2011. “‘The Internet is here’: Emergent coordination and innovation of protest forms in digital culture.” (pp. 304-311). In ACM proceedings of  iConference 2011, Seattle WA.


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