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Indiana University Bloomington

Fall 2013  Connectedness: Networks in a Complex World

LECTURE: How Do Social Networks Affect Your Health?

James Fowler - University of California, San Diego

James Fowler
: Thursday, November 7 @ 5:30 pm
Where: Whittenberger Auditorium, IMU
Reception to follow lecture in University Club, IMU.

Departmental Sponsors:
College of Arts and Sciences - Themester, Department of Political Science, Center on American Politics, Department of Sociology, Department of Statistics, Union Board

Organizers: Armando Razo and Ted Carmines



The public is obsessed with social networking and the new ways to connect online, but scholars have been studying social networks for decades. In Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives James Fowler and Nicholas Christakis argue that if you want to understand this new phenomenon, you have to start with the real, every day, face-to-face networks we have always had, ever since we were huddled around campfires on the Serengeti.

In his talk, James Fowler will describe his research showing that social networks have a powerful effect on obesity, smoking, drinking, happiness, loneliness, and depression. This research suggests there is a "Three Degrees of Influence Rule": everything we feel, think, or do affects our friends, our friends' friends, and even our friends' friends' friends. Fowler will describe how his recent work suggests social networks are a fundamental part of our human identity -- hunter-gatherers in Africa have networks just like ours, and there is evidence that even our genes affect how we connect to one another. With a foundation in understanding real world networks, we can consider how these networks function online. Fowler will describe some early work related to Facebook, and a recent experiment conducted with 61 million people in the 2010 US Election. He will conclude by describing some of the implications this research has for every day life.

James H. Fowler earned a PhD from Harvard in 2003 and is currently Professor of Medical Genetics and Political Science at the University of California, San Diego. His work lies at the intersection of the natural and social sciences, with a focus on social networks, behavior, evolution, politics, genetics, and big data.

ConnectedIn Connected and other writings, James Fowler brought to the forefront of public policy debate the importance of better understanding social networks in order to understand health and developmental outcomes. He was recently named a Fellow of the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, one of Foreign Policy's Top 100 Global Thinkers, TechCrunch's Top 20 Most Innovative People in Democracy, and Most Original Thinker of the year by The McLaughlin Group. His research has been featured in numerous best-of lists including New York Times Magazine's Year in Ideas, Time's Year in Medicine, Discover Magazine's Year in Science, and Harvard Business Review's Breakthrough Business Ideas.