Social Set Analysis: A Set Theoretical Approach to Big Data Analytics

Publication: Research - peer-reviewJournal article


Current analytical approaches in computational social science can be characterized by four dominant paradigms: text analysis (information extraction and classification), social network analysis (graph theory), social complexity analysis (complex systems science), and social simulations (cellular automata and agent-based modeling). However, when it comes to organizational and societal units of analysis, there exists no approach to conceptualize, model, analyze, explain, and predict social media interactions as individuals' associations with ideas, values, identities, and so on. To address this limitation, based on the sociology of associations and the mathematics of set theory, this paper presents a new approach to big data analytics called social set analysis. Social set analysis consists of a generative framework for the philosophies of computational social science, theory of social data, conceptual and formal models of social data, and an analytical framework for combining big social data sets with organizational and societal data sets. Three empirical studies of big social data are presented to illustrate and demonstrate social set analysis in terms of fuzzy set-theoretical sentiment analysis, crisp set-theoretical interaction analysis, and event-studies-oriented set-theoretical visualizations. Implications for big data analytics, current limitations of the set-theoretical approach, and future directions are outlined.

Publication information

Original languageEnglish
Article number7462188
JournalIEEE Access
Pages (from-to)2542-2571
StatePublished - 2016


  • Big data visual analytics, Big social data, Formal models, New computational models for big social data, Social set analysis

ID: 44862552