Mario Small.jpg

Mario L. Small, Ph.D., is Grafstein Family Professor at Harvard University. MoreCV

Personal Networks in Practice

I am working on an approach to social networks in which context, not just structure, is central. In quantitative and qualitative studies across multiple settings---from parents in daycare centers to students in Ph.D. programs---I am examining how network processes are shaped by their organizational embeddedness, by people's decisions, or both. A major focus is understanding the epistemological implications of shifting attention from the structure of the network to the decisions of the individual. Forthcoming works include a decision-process theory of how people mobilize their networks, a Cambridge U Press collection on ego network analysis with more than 50 contributors, and a new book series on the mechanisms behind network processes. [NETWORKS] 

Large-Scale Data and Urban Inequality

I am using large-scale administrative data from Twitter, Google Maps, and other sources to answer important new questions in racial inequality and urban poverty.  We are testing hypotheses derived from ethnographic and interview studies about how depopulation and other neighborhood conditions affect people’s capacities and wellbeing. In collaborations with engineers, spatial analysts, and others outside sociology, I hope to build on the interdisciplinary promise of “big data” for the study of inequality. Recent works include studies on racial segregation and everyday mobility based on millions of geotagged tweets, and an analysis of racial inequality in neighborhood access to financial institutions based on millions of travel queries. [URBAN]

Qualitative Research for a Scientific Era

I have been working to raise the standards of qualitative research and improve both researchers’ and the public’s “qualitative literacy”—the ability to read and interpret qualitative evidence effectively. The central challenge behind the project is to develop standards for ethnographic and interview-based research that is scientifically cumulative but nonetheless leans into its strengths, rather than emulating quantitative methods. I believe that elevating scientists', journalists', and policy makers' qualitative literacy is important to a democratic society, and essential to countering political polarization. Forthcoming works include a study on how to assess the quality of in-depth interview data, and a book on how to evaluate qualitative research. [METHODS]