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Department Seminar: Social Science without Generalization?

Drew Dimmery
Wednesday, November 29, 2023, 1:30 pm – 3:10 pm

This talk begins with the increasingly appreciated Generalizability Crisis in the social sciences (particular when studying internet technologies and platforms). Can our results, from a particular context speak to larger, timeless issues across the world? I begin by reviewing some of the problems of generalization, including recent work on agnostic bounds in temporal validity. I bring everything together through a philosophical lens best expressed by mid-twentieth century field of Cybernetics, and motivated by the success of tech companies like Meta over the past two decades. I conclude with suggestions for the field in two directions: (i) cooperation with and regulation of online platforms and (ii) independent development of software that can help reorient social science towards real-world impact.