28 May 2009

Reality Mining ~ Nathan Eagle Uses Socioscopes

I was delighted to see our MIT Media Lab alumnus Nathan Eagle come back for a visit today. Nathan's doctoral thesis on Reality Mining was the first large-scale use of mobile phones as Socioscopes, my own spinonym for those instruments which allow us to observe systemic sociological behavior in real-world settings. Much like Galileo invented Telescopes to study the stars and Leeuwenhoek invented Microscopes to study cells, so too we need to invent ever better Socioscopes to study society. Eagle's own work has pioneered mining mobile phone carrier datasets for many compelling uses, at levels of analysis spanning a few individuals up through much of humanity. One very exciting direction is helping understand economic clusters in developing countries and emerging markets -- meaning the flow of people, remittances, payments generally, and the various affinities of tribe and class and trade. This effort is something Nathan's pursued for years now as part of his ongoing EPROM research agenda -- EPROM = Entrepreneurial Programming & Research on Mobiles -- fantastically interesting work with far-reaching implications for the emergent and powerful discipline of Social Systems Engineering.

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