Sep 4, 2016

Friends and Family - Big Data Case Study by MIT

This post is an extract of my understanding of friends and family research - http://realitycommons.media.mit.edu/friendsdataset.html

Paper describes three investigations:

  1. Causality between financial status and social behavior.
  2. Network effects on decision making by looking at how different social relationships might predict the spread of mobile applications. Friends and families share same app for example if one family member creates group in Facebook or WhatsApp rest members of family will install that app. 
  3. Design and execution of experimental interventions while measuring their effect on individual and group behavior.


They conducted the fitness intervention and find results that contribute to our understanding of social incentives and motivation in real world; Analysis shows that individuals’ social interaction diversity correlates with their current income level.  And finally analysis that shows a relationship between the number of mobile applications that two people share in common to the time they physically spend face-to-face. Their observations suggest that the diffusion of apps relies more on the face-to-face interaction ties than on self-perceived friendship ties.

Results suggest that: (1) Social factors have an effect on the physical activity behavior, motivation, and adherence over time. (2) Social incentives, such as Peer-Reward mechanism encourage social influence among participants and higher activity returns per dollar invested in the system. (3) Finally, results support the notion of a complex contagion like effect related to pre-existing social ties between participants.

MRI is popular in medical science, functional MRI (fMRI) tells us inner workings of brain, and Social fMRI will give social and behavioral insights.

Social fMRI
Detailed sensing and imaging of social systems through the use of mobile phones, credit cards, social media, and telecommunications for social and behavioral sensing platform. Social fMRI approach could help us understand the inner workings of social systems and the way humans interact and react to one another.

System Architecture -
Phone data is saved in SQLite file format.  The server-side back-end processes all incoming SQLite files and inserts them into a central MySQL database. It sends email reports to investigators about status of phones and alerts of any issues. Additional services provide data for interventions and personal data visualization for participants. An object-relational-mapper (ORM) enables representing all data as code objects which simplifies development of applications that use the data.

Individual behavior: social interaction diversity and financial status
Individuals will quickly lose their diversity in social interaction when their financial status gets worse; Individuals will quickly gain their interaction diversity when their financial status improves.  As good financial status ensures people safer and more satisfying living conditions, they naturally feel more confident and secure in exploring new social potential.

 Social fabric and its influence on decision making
One of the signals collected in the Friends and Family study is the set of mobile applications, or ‘‘apps’’, installed on each phone.  In conclusion, discovered that people who spend more time in face-to-face interaction are more likely to share common apps

Social Intervention
Results support there is a statistically significant effect of social components on the real-world in-situ physical activity levels. Results show that Peer-Reward social influence mechanism leveraging social capital can increase the efficiency of exogenous money and resources invested in the system. This could contribute to the design of future policies and intervention.  Also seen a complex interaction effect related to pre-existing social ties inside the social experimental conditions.

Hope that isolating and evaluating health related social mechanisms will become part of the toolbox for encouraging healthy behavior, combined with other components such as user interfaces, accurate measurement techniques, and individual goal setting.

Approach followed in the “Friends and Family” study differs from typical Gamification approaches

The approaches taken in the "Friends and Family" study are Control Condition, Peer-View, and Peer-Rewards; among them Peer-Rewards is most efficient and it is very much different from typical Gamification approaches that is more similar to Control Condition. In Peer-Reward mechanism, subjects were shown their own progress as well as that of two Buddies and rewards
depended solely on the performance of their Buddies. At the same time, their own performance reward was split between
two other peers, to which the current user was a Buddy. In typical Gamification approach subject is solely awarded for his or her own performance.

"Friends and Family" Analysis investigated the effectiveness of the different motivation and influence mechanisms for
encouraging increased physical activity in-situ. Focus is on two key metrics: The first is differences in average activity
levels, both across conditions and chronological periods of the experiment, and the second is the efficiency of the reward
"investment" in the system.
Two benefits of the "Peer-Rewards" design -
1) Embedding the social aspects, adds to physical activity performance and activity adherence over time, compared to the socially isolated control condition
2) In Peer-Reward, both information and reward traverse the links between peers, and a potential for social influence as motivator.  
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