In the 21st century, our lives are online: Around the world, we can shop, socialize, bank, attend events, visit doctors, watch TV, listen to music, order takeout, work, learn, and much more, all with an internet connection. However, a vast majority of these activities are facilitated by a handful of digital gatekeepers, leaving everyone else with no meaningful way to parse how people are using those platforms or how those platforms are using their customers. Until now.
Researchers at Northeastern University were awarded a $15.7 million grant from the National Science Foundation to build a research infrastructure that will provide scientists around the world and across disciplines with open, ethical, analytic information about how people behave online. “This would be a platform for research on basic human behavior,” says David Lazer, university distinguished professor of political science and computer sciences, and co-director of the NULab for Texts, Maps, and Networks, who is leading the project.