New Publications

The digital traces that we leave online are increasingly fruitful sources of data for social scientists, including those interested in demographic research. The collection and use of digital data also presents numerous statistical, computational, and ethical challenges, motivating the development of new research approaches to address these burgeoning issues. In this article, we argue that researchers with formal training in demography - those who have a history of developing innovative approaches to using challenging data - are well positioned to contribute to this area of work. We discuss the benefits and challenges of using digital trace data for social and demographic research, and we review examples of current demographic literature that creatively uses digital trace data to study processes related to fertility, mortality, and migration. Focusing on Facebook data for advertisers—a novel “digital census” that has largely been untapped by demographers—we provide illustrative and empirical examples of how demographic researchers can manage issues such as bias and representation when using digital trace data. We conclude by offering our perspective on the road ahead regarding demography and its role in the data revolution.
Demography, 2018


More Publications

. Data in the Wild: Promises and Pitfalls of Using Big Social Data for Demographic Research. Demography, 2018.

. Unbiased Sampling of Useres from (Online) Activity Data. Field Methods, 2018.


. Research opportunities at the intersection of social media and survey data collection. Current Opinion in Psychology, Special Issue on Social Media & Applications to Health Behavior, 2016.


. Spatio-temporal filtering techniques for the detection of disaster-related communication. Social Science Research, 2016.


Recent & Upcoming Talks

Oct 26, 2018
Oct 22, 2018
Understanding Social Behavior During Crisis Events using Digital Traces
Aug 29, 2018
Look Who's Watching: Understanding the Audience of Police on Social Media
Mar 22, 2017

Dr. Spiro will attend the International Conference on Computational Social Science (IC2S2). At the conference she will present a poster on joint work with PhD student Li Zeng on “Gender Differences in Social Exercise in an Online Fitness Community”.


PhD student Li Zeng won the Best Paper Award of the 10th International Conference on Social Computing and Social Media for her paper “Stay Connected and Keep Motivated: Modeling Activity Level of Exercise in an Online Fitness Community”.


PhD student Li Zeng will present her work at the 2018 HCI International conference in Las Vegas this week. Her research paper, “Stay Connected and Keep Motivated: Modeling Activity Level of Exercise in an Online Fitness Community” explores personal health and wellness tracking.


Dr. Spiro and Dr. Starbird were awarded an NSF grant to study Collective Sensemaking Online. The research project will address empirical and conceptual questions about online rumoring, asking: (1) How do online rumors permute, branch, and otherwise evolve over the course of their lifetime? (2) How can theories of rumor spread in offline settings be extended to online interaction, and what factors (technological and behavioral) influence these dynamics, perhaps making online settings distinct environments for information flow?


Dr. Spiro was invited to attend the Current Challenges in Computing Conference on Computational Social Science last week. The conference, held in Napa, CA brings together experts to spur discussion about how to advance the state of the art by exploiting current and anticipated computing capability.




Information School: Informatics

  • INFO 499 Independent Study
  • INFO 495 Informatics Internship
  • INFO 300 Research Methods

Information School: Imformation Management

  • IMT 600 Independent Study
  • IMT 570 Analytic Methods for Information

Information School: Ph.D. Program

  • INSC 800 Doctoral Dissertation
  • INSC 600 Independent Study
  • INSC 575 Research Practicum
  • INSC 565 Teaching Practicum
  • INSC 576 Research Practicum
  • INSC 599 Independent Study

Information School: Interdisciplinary

  • INFX 573 Data Science I - Theoretical Foundations
  • INFX 576 Social Network Analysis

Department of Sociology

  • SOC 800 Doctoral Dissertation
  • SOC 495 Honors Senior Thesis in Sociology
  • SOC 600 Independent Study

Human Centered Design and Engineering

  • HCDE 596 Directed Research Group (co-taught with Dr. Kate Starbird)


Prospective Students: If you are interested in applying to the Ph.D. program at the Information School or Department of Sociology at the UW, I would be happy to talk with you before you apply. I am currently accepting new students in both programs.

Current Students: If you are a current student and would like to get involved in any of my research projects, please contact me to set up a time to chat.

Emily Porter

Information School, University of Washington

Leo Stewart

Information School, University of Washington

Peter Krafft

eScience Institute and Information School, University of Washington

Li Zeng

Information School, University of Washington

Nina Cesare

Digital Data Researcher, Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation

Shawn Walker

Assistant Professor of Social Technologies, School of Socal & Behavioral Sciences, Arizona State University

Logan Walls

Data Scientist, nuunum