Social science experiments are important. They allow us to ground sociological and economic theory in real human behavior, and helps establish causal links between events.
"But the problem is that they are a a pain in the ass to do," said David Rand, a Berkman Center for the Internet and Society fellow. "You have to get someone to get down to the lab and spend time in transit. There are fixed time costs."
The Berkman Center is a leading institution for important research into the uses and impacts of digital technologies. We'll be previewing their regular brownbag lunches here on The Atlantic Technology Channel.
That's why he and fellow online social experiment pioneers like Harvard's John Horton are turning to Amazon's Mechanical Turk and other online labor markets to find willing participants. The services take the pain out of doing social science experimentation, decreasing costs and increasing the speed of idea development.
For example, Rand submitted a paper to a journal, which asked that he carry out another experiment before accepting his work. "I got the rejection on Thursday. I designed the experiment on Friday and by Sunday I had 500 people recruited," he said.
Rand will be talking about the value of these online research tools at the Berkman Center today. You can tune in live.