Social fMRI: Investigating and shaping social mechanisms in the real world

A clue as to how a cheaper version of Glass or Android for wearables might be monetized; what data miners are doing with your smart phone data; and how Google Now might be able to predict what you ‘need to know’ before you yourself realize; can be found in Google’s recent acquisition of  the team behind Behavio (engaget).

The company built its short-lived product on top of Funf, a framework for collecting data from mobile phone sensors. Its goal was to analyze things like physical location, contacts and other data about your activities and environment to monitor trends, then make predictions about behavior. The targets weren’t just individuals though, but entire communities, and it was even suggested that Behavio could predict the eruption of mass protests. Big G has acknowledged that the folks from Behavio are joining Google, but isn’t revealing any plans for the company just yet.


So who were Behavio?

(interview on O’reilly radar)

Well you can check out their 2011 Paper ‘Social fMRI: Investigating and shaping social mechanisms in the real world‘ and you can see that the project was about:

Imagine the ability to place an imaging chamber around an entire community. Imagine the ability to record and display nearly every facet and dimension of behavior, communication, and social interaction among the members of the said community. Moreover, envision being able to conduct interventions in the community, while measuring their effect—by both automatic sensor tools as well as qualitative assessment of the individual subjects. Now, think about doing this for an entire year, while the members of the community go about their everyday lives.


The data enable us to construct multiple network modalities of the community—such as the phone communication network, physical face-to-face encounters network, online social network, self-reported network, and more. We use these networks to investigate questions like how things spread in the community, such as ideas, decisions, mood, or the seasonal flu. Our high level goals include the investigation of ‘‘natural’’ and externally imposed social mechanisms related to behavior and decision making, together with designing and evaluating new mechanisms or tools for helping people make better decisions.


Read the article on science direct (if you have journal access)

So the objective is not only to understand human behavior but also how to effectively induce behavioral change in communities.

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