"Xbox is a social site," Chayes said. "
Devices ? such as Windows phones and tablets ? also mediate social interactions, she says.
Yammer, the business social networking startup
Recently, she and her team conducted a field study of about three dozen people, talking to people and observing them in their environments to understand the kinds of work they do on their tablets and how those tablets fit within their wider technology ecosystem.
One theme that emerged was that many tablet owners used their devices for more "casual productivity" and in more relaxed positions, such as reclining on the couch ? information useful for future iterations of Office.
These days, Lovejoy observed, it's the researchers themselves who are more embedded into product teams, "becoming more impactful, and influencing decisions at the strategic level."
Similar things are happening at other tech companies.
Moreover, most product and marketing groups at
Previously, someone developing technology for mobile devices, for example, might come to consult with the social science researchers. Now, there are researchers embedded with the mobile teams.
"It's a real shift on corporations' part," Anderson said. "They're interested in understanding how people live so they can innovate for them."
"We've seen a growing interest and need for the kind of expertise that we bring to the questions of the day around data analytics, and social and mobile technologies," she said.
Blomberg is doing research on how data is produced ? especially in the course of everyday activities ? and analyzed, and the ways those analyses are then used within corporations.
"Social scientists are in a strong position to help us understand the sources of data and the way data needs to be understood in order to be taken up," she said.
But that's changing, he said, especially with the volume of data available these days that companies want to analyze.
There's even an emerging field of "computational social science" that looks at social phenomena using computational tools, and that ties together everything from statistics to social sciences to computer science.
The group's first conference, held in 2005 at the
Liebow believes that, "The task of making sense of the overwhelming amount of data we have available now places a premium on those who can make the data tell a story or find a story in the data."
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