- Feature Stories
- News Flash
- Making Noise
- The Fence
- Beyond the Cut
- Inspire Innovation
« Back to Page 1
Unbelievably, she’d faced familiar hurdles along the way. There was the MIT professor who warned she’d never make it as a female mathematician and should find a different field, even as she was taking every artificial intelligence course offered. And there was the cousin at her engagement party, relieved that Kathleen could now forgo that bachelor’s degree for her “Mrs.” with Rick.
Instead, she’d gone on to Harvard for a PhD, following the goal she’d set years before—to combine social science and artificial intelligence. She studied under Harrison White, a pioneer in the use of mathematics in social network analysis, the mapping and measuring of relationships between people and groups. Rick, meanwhile, had stayed at MIT for his own doctorate in electrical engineering.
While visiting a relative at Carnegie Mellon soon after earning their degrees, the Carleys decided to pop in to their respective academic departments: Kathleen to social science, Rick to electrical and computer engineering. They walked out with invites to return and talk about possible faculty appointments. Kathleen couldn’t pass up the opportunity to work with Allen Newell, a world-renowned researcher in computer science and cognitive psychology. So, both she and her husband followed through on the invites and, sure enough, the young couple received Carnegie Mellon appointments and settled in Pittsburgh.
At Carnegie Mellon, Kathleen Carley founded CASOS, the Center for Computational Analysis of Social and Organizational Systems. She developed the multi-disciplinary center to bring together social scientists, organizational theorists, statisticians, and computer scientists—combining their skills to further understand and predict how and why groups behave the way they do.
CASOS developed sophisticated tools, including ORA, which employs mathematical algorithms that represent general social findings, like the tendency of friends to be similar. With vast quantities of data gathered from sources as varied as texts, news reports, interviews, blogs, and email, the system uses algorithms to analyze social networks. ORA has the unprecedented capability of keeping results up to date, tracking networks as they move through time. And, as Carley puts it, “it lets you look at not just who talks to whom, but the who, what, where, when, how, and why. It puts it all together.”
For example, the team can gather timely data from a group’s email and text interaction, as well as articles and blogs that reference them. From this data and more, ORA’s algorithms are then able to identify the most prominent leader. This information, combined with other tools, can then help pinpoint the target’s location.
Carley’s network science techniques and software can be used to study diverse social issues and problems, from how beliefs spread through cities to evolving revolutions to drug and terrorist networks. People call from every discipline and field, from academia to U.S. Homeland Security. With Rick, she is exploring methods to assess a region’s capability for building weapons of mass destruction. And then, of course, there is the military.
The phone rings insistently through the Carley house.
“Kathleen? It’s Ian McCulloh. I’m in Bagram, Afghanistan, trying to map out terrorist networks. I’m having a problem. Can you help?”(Continued …)