2022-2023 Lecture Series

5th Future of the Social Sciences Conference

February 25th, 2023

The Center for the Study of Economy and Society hosted its 5th “Future of the Social Sciences” conference on Saturday, February 25th in New York City. The series brings together like-minded social scientists for cross-disciplinary discussion about new work and trends that may influence the direction of the social sciences.

At this year’s conference, we explored new work on the exchange between the humanities and social science on the mind and AI, theory and prediction of the middle range, experiments in the social sciences, cumulative advantage and the Matthews Effect, immigration and climate change, novel methods of studying the dynamics of behavioral traces and multiple triangulation in the study of social behavior.

Videos of the presentations will be shared on our YouTube channel in the weeks following the event.  A complete program can be found here and a list of participants below:


  • Laurent Dubreuil, Professor of Comparative Literature, Romance Studies and Cognitive Science, Cornell University
  • Delia Baldassarri, CSES Fellow; Professor of Sociology, New York University
  • Filiz Garip, CSES Fellow; Professor of Sociology, Princeton University
  • Victor Nee, CSES Fellow; the Frank and Rosa Rhodes Professor of Economic Sociology, and CSES Director (on sabbatical leave from Cornell University 2022-23)
  • John Padgett, CSES Fellow; Professor of Political Science, University of Chicago
  • David Strang, Professor of Sociology and CSES Acting Director 2022-23, Cornell University
  • Arnout van de Rijt, CSES Fellow; Professor of Political and Social Sciences, European University Institute, Florence
  • Sirui Wang, Graduate Student, Wharton School and McKinsey Consulting
  • Duncan Watts, CSES Fellow; the Stevens University Professor and twenty-third Penn Integrates Knowledge University Professor, University of Pennsylvania
  • Cristobal Young, Associate Professor of Sociology, Cornell University

CSES Fellows

  • Paul DiMaggio, Professor of Sociology, New York University
  • Barnaby Marsh, Fellow, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton University


  • Brett de Bary, Professor of Comparative Literature, Modern Japanese Literature and Asian Studies, Emerita, Cornell University
  • Maurizio Catino, Professor of Sociology, University of Milano-Bicocca
  • Laurent Ferri, Curator and Adjunct Associate Professor, Cornell University
  • Barum Park, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Cornell University
  • Patricia Young, Program Manager, Institute for European Studies, Cornell University
Lecture Videos

Filiz Garip: “Networks, Diffusion and Inequality”

Symposium on the Future of the Social Sciences IV
Oct 26, 2018

DiMaggio and Garip (2011) define network externalities (where the value of a practice is a function of network alters that have already adopted the practice) as a mechanism exacerbating social inequality under the condition of homophily (where advantaged individuals poised to be primary adopters are socially connected to other advantaged individuals). The authors use an agent-based model of diffusion on a real-life population for empirical illustration, and thus, do not consider consolidation (correlation between traits), a population parameter that shapes network structure and diffusion (Blau and Schwartz 1984, Centola 2015). Using an agent-based model, this paper shows that prior findings linking homophily to segregated social ties and to differential diffusion outcomes are contingent on high levels of consolidation. Homophily, under low consolidation, is not sufficient to exacerbate existing differences in adoption probabilities across groups, and can even end up alleviating inter-group inequality by facilitating diffusion.

Lecture Videos

Sandra Gonzalez‐Bailon: “Digital News and the Consumption of Information Online”

Symposium on the Future of the Social Sciences IV
Oct 26, 2018

Measures of audience overlap between news sources give us information on the diversity of people’s media diets and the similarity of news outlets in terms of the audiences they share. This provides a way of addressing key questions like whether audiences are increasingly fragmented. In this paper, we use audience overlap estimates to build networks that we then analyze to extract the backbone – that is, the overlapping ties that are statistically significant. We argue that the analysis of this backbone structure offers metrics that can be used to compare news consumption patterns across countries, between groups, and over time. Our analytical approach offers a new way of understanding audience structures that can enable more comparative research and, thus, more empirically grounded theoretical understandings of audience behavior in an increasingly digital media environment.

Lecture Videos

Duncan Watts: “Prediction and Explanation in Social Science”

Symposium on the Future of the Social Sciences IV
Oct 26, 2018

Historically, social scientists have sought out explanations of human and social phenomena that provide interpretable causal mechanisms, while often ignoring their predictive accuracy. We argue that the increasingly computational nature of social science is beginning to reverse this traditional bias against prediction; however, it has also highlighted three important issues that require resolution. First, current practices for evaluating predictions must be better standardized. Second, theoretical limits to predictive accuracy in complex social systems must be better characterized, thereby setting expectations for what can be predicted or explained. Third, predictive accuracy and interpretability must be recognized as complements, not substitutes, when evaluating explanations. Resolving these three issues will lead to better, more replicable, and more useful social science.

Lecture Videos

Michael Macy: “Social Wormholes and Parallel Worlds”

Symposium on the Future of the Social Sciences IV
Oct 26, 2018

Using global network data, we discovered the existence of social “wormholes” – high bandwidth social ties that bridge vast network distances, enabling rapid diffusion of costly, novel, or controversial innovations whose transmission depends on strong social relationships.

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“Economic action is ‘social’ insofar as its subjective meaning takes account of the behavior of others and is thereby oriented in its course.”— Max Weber