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Peter Dodds, “Building and using Lexical Meters to explore Happiness, Health, Public Opinion, Language, and Stories”

October 19, 2018 @ 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm

I will survey our efforts at the Computational Story Lab to quantify human stories of all kinds. I will present examples of our “lexical meters”—online, interactive instruments that use social media and other texts to quantify population rates of a wide array of human behavior such as wealth, exercise levels, obesity rates, and depression. I will cover a selection of a wide range of interrelated projects, including but not limited to: How 10 diverse natural languages entail a striking encoding of the Pollyanna Principle through a frequency-independent positivity bias; Our hedonometric analyses of works of literature and movies; the Lexicocalorimeter, a principled meter that turns phrases into calories; the stories of sports; the notions of lexical and story turbulence; time compression for news and stories; the basics of a POTUSometer; an understanding of the scaling break in Zipf’s law; and the failures of large corpora such as Google Books. I will close with some thoughts on the nature of human stories and venture that a science of stories now has the potential to now be developed in full, and that its success will be crucial in understanding the evolution, stability, and fracturing of social systems.

Peter Sheridan Dodds is a Professor at the University of Vermont (UVM) working on system-level problems in many fields, ranging from sociology to physics. He is Director of the UVM’s Complex Systems Center, co-Director of UVM’s Computational Story Lab, and a visiting faculty fellow at the Vermont Advanced Computing Core. He maintains general research and teaching interests in complex systems and networks with a current focus on sociotechnical and psychological phenomena including collective emotional states, contagion, language, and stories. His methods encompass large-scale sociotechnical experiments, large-scale data collection and analysis, and the formulation, analysis, and simulation of theoretical models. Dodds’s training is in theoretical physics, mathematics, and electrical engineering with extensive formal postdoctoral and research experience in the social sciences. Dodds has received funding from NSF, NASA, ONR, and the MITRE Corporation, among others, notably being awarded an NSF CAREER by the Social and Economic Sciences Directorate.

Please bring your Northeastern ID (or other photo ID) when entering the building. This event is free and open to the public, but guests should email j.briceno[at]northeastern[dot]edu to register.

For more information, see the event page at the Network Science Institute site.


October 19, 2018
2:00 pm - 3:00 pm


11th Floor, 177 Huntington
177 Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA 02115 United States


NULab: for Texts, Maps, and Networks
Network Science Institute