SOBACO is an interdisciplinary University of Minnesota research collaborative housed at the Carlson School of Management. It received seed funding from the President Kaler and Provost Hanson with the aim of positioning the University of Minnesota at the knowledge frontier of the intersection between social media and business/societal problems.
SOBACO is envisaged as a large-scale real-world laboratory where researchers design and conduct experiments and collect the data needed to obtain answers to a variety of questions, from peer influence effects, the influence of dynamic ties, pricing of digital media, the role of search costs in online relationships, to designing next-generation recommender systems and enquiries into the changing preference structures of Generation Y and Z consumers.
SOBACO is motivated by a unique aspect of large-scale online social networks. Networks such as Facebook and Twitter are based on a “platform” architecture, which allows outside entities, including the research community, to build applications, interface and ultimately conduct scientific experiments using randomized trials with hundreds of millions of real-world online users in an environment where they are naturally interacting. In a business context we expect such methods to get to the holy grail of pinpoint causal mechanisms that drive phenomenon of interest.
SOBACO researchers work at the cutting edge of econometric, computational and experimental methodologies with the hope of drawing of causal inferences or strong predictions, as the case may be, from large-scale network and non-network data. Of particular interest to SOBACO are meaningful industry partnerships that help shape our research agenda through knowledge and data sharing as well as live experimentation.
SOBACO provides its affiliated faculty and industry partners a state of the art research infrastructure using a combination of in-house, outsourced and cloud based resources to help facilitate this new breed of data science research.