Cell phones have become an important platform for the understanding of social dynamics and influence, because of their pervasiveness, sensing capabilities, and computational power. Many applications have emerged in recent years in mobile health, mobile banking, location based services, media democracy, and social movements. With these new capabilities, we can potentially be able to identify exact points and times of infection for diseases, determine who most influences us to gain weight or become healthier, know exactly how information flows among employees and productivity emerges in our work spaces, and understand how rumors spread.
There remain, however, significant challenges to making mobile phones the essential tool for conducting social science research and also supporting mobile commerce with a solid social science foundation. Perhaps the greatest challenge is the lack of data in the public domain, data large and extensive enough to capture the disparate facets of human behavior and interactions. Another major challenge lies in the interdisciplinary nature of conducting social science research with mobile phones. Software engineers need to work collaboratively alongside social scientists and data miners in various fields.
In an attempt to address these challenges, we release several mobile data sets here in "Reality Commons" that contain the dynamics of several communities of about 100 people each. We invite researchers to propose and submit their own applications of the data to demonstrate the scientific and business values of these data sets, suggest how to meaningfully extend these experiments to larger populations, and develop the math that fits agent-based models or systems dynamics models to larger populations.
These data sets were collected with tools developed in the MIT Human Dynamics Lab and are now available as open source projects (see the funf open-source sensing platform for Android phones, http://funf.media.mit.edu) or at cost (e.g., the sociometric badges for sensing organizational behavior, see http://sociometricsolutions.com )