I am an associate professor at The Institute for Analytical Sociology (IAS) in Sweden.
My work centers around how people form beliefs to guide their choices (e.g. to select a worthwhile book, to break only irregularly sanctioned rules), how people express their opinions, and how these behaviors interact to bring about often hard-to-predict collective outcomes (e.g. the emergence of bestsellers, normative change, swings in public discourse).
I ground my research on statistical modeling, online data, social experiments, and computer simulation. With this toolkit, I work in three substantial areas:
social dynamics, norms, and inequality
My Research Groups
The text analysis group studies the dynamics of public discourse based on online text. Funded by a generous grant from the Swedish Research Council, we develop machine-learning applications for the large-scale analysis of text in sociology. Using digitized corpora as social sensors, our research explores sudden swings in public opinion and the definition of shared understandings of societal developments and events.
The spatial inequality group investigates the self-reinforcing dynamics of urban growth, the pace of life in cities, and the escalating urban-rural divide in economic prosperity and individual life chances. Our research explores the increasingly uneven economic geography observed in many countries in which cities’ attraction of talent adds to growing levels of inequality between urban and rural areas.
The cultural dynamics group looks at cultural markets as testbeds for socially influenced behavior. One important research question is whether social influence is powerful enough to change people’s behavior––and thus contribute to socially constructed collective outcomes. Other research questions tackle social categorization and the effects of boundary crossing in opaque markets.
With online data becoming increasingly abundant, I share the perception that digitalization has profound consequences for the way in which societies function, influencing whom we interact with, the information we receive, the items we consume, and our beliefs and opinions about various social matters. Sociologists can gain a lot from computational tools, particularly when it comes to the study of social dynamics. Computational social science might even have the potential to advance sociology in a way that the introduction of econometrics advanced economics during the last half century.
Being surrounded by computer scientists and statisticians, I believe in the power of social theory. The substantive significance of empirical findings often only emerges through theory as an interpretive lens. We shouldn’t just “find” empirical effects, but unearth the underlying social mechanisms by reference to generalizable theories. Many mechanisms defy disciplinary boundaries. My research thus syndicates concepts, tools, and results also from the neighboring social sciences.
Due to the economy’s decisive role in contemporary societies, I further believe that economic sociology has the capacity to explain a wide range of social phenomena. These relate to topics of general societal relevance such as cities, markets, and networks and are often intertwined with issues of social inequality. My research and teaching takes this explanatory potential into account, reflected also in my co-authoring of two textbooks on economic sociology.
Committed to advancing experiments in sociology, I edited two special issues on experimental methods, headed the Munich Experimental Laboratory from 2015–2017, and served as the principal investigator of a two-year project concerned with the “External Validity of Experiments in Sociology” funded by the German Research Foundation.
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Marc Keuschnigg, Norra Grytsgatan 10, 601 74 Norrköping, Sweden