EE380 Computer Systems Colloquium presents "How Behavior Spreads"

How Behavior Spreads
Wednesday, November 14, 2018 - 4:30pm
Gates B03
Damon Centola (University of Pennsylvania)
Abstract / Description: 

New social movements, technologies, and public-health initiatives often struggle to take off, yet many diseases disperse rapidly without issue. Can the lessons learned from the viral diffusion of diseases be used to improve the spread of beneficial behaviors and innovations? In this talk, I discuss several new breakthroughs in the science of network diffusion, and how these advances have improved our understanding of how changes in societal behavior--in voting, health, technology, and finance--occur, and the ways social networks can be used to influence how they propagate. The findings show that the same conditions accelerating the viral expansion of an epidemic unexpectedly inhibit the spread of behaviors. I show how many of the most well-known, intuitive ideas about how social networks function have in fact been responsible for causing past diffusion efforts to fail. I present new findings and new network methods that have been used to enable social change efforts to succeed much more effectively.

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Damon Centola is an Associate Professor in the Annenberg School for Communication and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania, where he is Director of the Network Dynamics Group. Before coming to Penn, he was an Assistant Professor at M.I.T. and a Robert Wood Johnson Fellow at Harvard University.

His research includes social networks, social epidemiology, and web-based experiments on diffusion and cultural evolution. His work has been published across several disciplines in journals such as Science, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, American Journal of Sociology, and Journal of Statistical Physics. Damon received the American Sociological Association's Award for Outstanding Article in Mathematical Sociology in 2006, 2009, and 2011, and was awarded the ASA's 2011 Goodman Prize for Outstanding Contributions to Sociological Methodology and the 2017 James Coleman Award for Outstanding Research in Rationality and Society. He was a developer of the NetLogo agent based modeling environment, and was awarded a U.S. Patent for inventing a method to promote diffusion in online networks. He is a member of the Sci Foo community and Fellow of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University. He is the author of How Behavior Spreads, from Princeton University Press, and is co-editor of the Analytical Sociology series for Princeton Press.

Popular accounts of Damon's work have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Wired, TIME, and CNN. His research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the James S. McDonnell Foundation, and the Hewlett Foundation.