The Virtual Observatory for the Study of Online Networks (VOSON) Lab is located in the Research School of Social Sciences at The Australian National University. We are advancing the Social Science of the Internet through an innovative program of research, research tool development, teaching & training.
Our funding is via the Australian Research Council (five grants to date), and a current Volkswagen Foundation (AI and Society of the Future Stream) grant led by Bielefeld University. VOSON tools have been publicly available since 2006. The current suite of VOSON R tools are available on CRAN and GitHub, with over 85K downloads to date, and are downloaded over 1K times per month.
Please contact Professor Robert Ackland if you have any queries about the VOSON Lab.
VOSON Lab staff
School of Sociology and ANU Centre for Social Research and Methods, ANU. Established and leads the VOSON Lab and is involved in research, software development and teaching.
Graduated from ANU Master of Social Research in 2010. Francisca works as a part-time research assistant for the VOSON Lab.
Bryan has qualifications in Science, Computing, Information Technology and Design. They have completed a Master of Social Research (Social Science of the Internet) and are currently a PhD student in the School of Sociology. Bryan is a part-time software developer for the VOSON Lab.
VOSON Lab research affiliates
(News & Media Research Centre, University of Canberra and Honorary Associate Professor, School of Sociology, ANU). Chief investigator on the ARC grant that formally established the VOSON Lab. Research interests include collective identity and issue diffusion.
Senior Lecturer (Digital Media and Communication) Creative Industries Faculty, School of Communication QUT. Research interests include computational sociology, social theory, choice and decision-making and social network analysis.
Professor of Communication Science with a focus on digital communication, Zeppelin University Friedrichshafen (Germany). Research interests include automation of (online) communication, social theory, and methodological issues in online research.
Dr Mahin Rahissi
Mahin is a computational social scientist with undergraduate and masters degrees in computer science and sociology from Tehran. She received her PhD from ANU on the topic "Online social networks and subjective well-being of older Australians". Mahin works as a Data Scientist in the ACT Government.
Tommaso Venturini is researcher at the CNRS Centre for Internet and Society. He is also associate researcher of INRIA and of the médialab of Sciences Po Paris and founding member of the Public Data Lab.
WA Premier’s Early to Mid-Career Fellow, Centre for Optimisation and Decision Science, Curtin University. A background in systems and control theory, with research interests in complex network dynamics, modelling opinion formation and collective decision-making, and epidemic spreading.
Students associated with the VOSON Lab
- Nicholas Corbett (PhD candidate, School of Sociology, ANU) - "Algorithmic platforms and the alt-right: considering a new understanding of online extremism." Primary Supervisor - R. Ackland, Associate Supervisors - M. Cooper, M. Zekulin
- Bryan Gertzel (PhD candidate, School of Sociology, ANU) - "The Role and Impact of Social Bots: A Computational Social Science and Software Design Perspective." Panel Chair/Associate Supervisor - J. Sikora, Primary Supervisor - R. Ackland, Associate Supervisor - T. Graham
- Sidiq Madya (PhD candidate, School of Sociology, ANU) - The Web of Narratives from Non-State Actors" Primary Supervisor - R. Ackland, Associate Supervisors - A. Mackenzie & M. O'Neil
- Mikayla Novak (PhD candidate, School of Sociology, ANU) - "Tweeting hydrogen: An Exploratory Study of Australian Twitter Communications about Hydrogen Decarbonisation". Primary Supervisor - R. Ackland, Associate Supervisors - D. Halpin, J. Davis, R. Colvin, P. Jones
- Ross Tieman (PhD candidate, Fenner School of Environment & Society, ANU) - "Do Flexible Collective Minds Make Resilient Systems? Investigating the Role of Collective Intelligence in Socio-Ecological-Technical System Resilience". Primary Supervisor - S. Lade, Associate Supervisors - K. Daniell & R. Ackland
People previously associated with the VOSON Lab
- Dr Haris Memic (Research Fellow in School of Sociology, ANU, 2015-17) - his research was focused on statistical social network analysis of online networks, with particular focus on Twitter.
- Dr Yenn Lee (SOAS, University of London) researches in the field of digital culture and politics (with focus on the Asia-Pacific region) and taught and co-taught in the Online Research Methods masters course at ANU 2012-2013 (focusing on online qualitative methods).
PhD students (former)
- Simon Copland (PhD candidate, School of Sociology, ANU, graduated 2022) - Thesis title: "Reddit, The Manosphere and The Male Complaint". Primary Supervisor - M. Rasmussen, Associate Supervisor - R. Ackland
- Yuanyuan Shang (PhD candidate, Australian National Centre for the Public Awareness of Science, ANU, graduated 2022) - Thesis title : "Social media and online public deliberation: A case study of climate change communication on Twitter". Primary Supervisors - J. Leach & W. Grant, Associate Supervisor - R. Ackland
- Mahin Raissi (PhD, Australian Demographic & Social Research Institute [now School of Demography], ANU, graduated 2016). Thesis title: "Online social networks and subjective well-being of older Australians". Panel Chair/Primary Supervisor - R. Ackland
- Ian Wood (PhD, Research School of Computer Science, ANU, graduated 2016). Thesis title: "Watching the unobservable - On measuring social dynamics of online social media". Panel Chair/Primary Supervisor - H. Gardner, Primary Supervisor - R. Ackland
- Minkyoung Kim (PhD, Research School of Computer Science, ANU, graduated 2014). Thesis title: "Dynamics of information diffusion". Primary Supervisor - H. Gardner, Associate Supervisor - R. Ackland
- Harsh Taneja (PhD; Media, Technology and Society; Northwestern University; graduated 2014). Thesis title: "Media Consumption on the World Wide Web: Integrating Theories of Global Media Flows and Media Choice to Global Cultural Consumption". Primary Supervisor - J. Webster, Advisor - R. Ackland
Master of Social Research (Advanced) students (former)
- Rizwan Saeed (Master of Social Research (Advanced), ANU, graduated 2019). Thesis title: "Twitter and development of social capital (in Pakistan): A gender perspective." Thesis supervisor - R. Ackland
- Sneha Vaidya (Master of Social Research (Advanced), ANU, graduated 2019). Thesis title: "Social and political engagement on Twitter in India." Thesis supervisor - R. Ackland
- Kyosuke Tanaka (Master of Social Research (Advanced), ANU, graduated 2015). Thesis title: "Self-disclosure and homophily in online social networks." Thesis supervisor - R. Ackland
- Cecilie Einarson Perez (Master of Social Research Advanced, ANU, graduated 2013). Thesis title: "Tweeting the frame: Fields and frames in the age of the networked individual." Thesis supervisor - R. Ackland
Honours students (former)
- Lauren Northcote (Honours in Sociology, ANU, 2021). Thesis title: "The Memes that Moved the Market: Understanding meme propagation in the GameStop short squeeze through the revival of Gabriel Tarde’s hundred-year-old theories." Thesis supervisor: R. Ackland
- Karl Gwynn (Honours in Sociology, ANU, 2019). Thesis title: "Incivility in the Australian Political Twittersphere." Thesis supervisor: R. Ackland
Undergraduate students (former)
- Finn Hick Bullock. SOCY3001 Research Internship project (Semester 2 2022) on "There's no r/place like home: Creation and destruction as reflections of nationalism and collective action in Reddit's r/Place" Supervisor: R. Ackland
- Karl Gwynn. SOCY3001 Research Internship project (Semester 2 2018) on "Fact Checking Methodologies within Social Media Data Analysis". Supervisor - R. Ackland
- Lawrence Rogers. ARTS2101 Advanced Studies 4 project (Semester 1 2018) on "Analysing differences in behaviour between human and socialbot Twitter users: Smoke screening and misdirection during #debatenight in the 2016 US presidential election". Supervisor - R. Ackland
Research assistants (former)
- Xiaolan Cai (graduated from ANU Master of Social Research in 2018). She worked as a part-time research assistant for the VOSON Lab.
- Xujing Bai (graduated from ANU Master of Social Research in 2015) worked as a part-time research assistant on a project investigating the institutional structure of the public health sectors in Australia and China using hyperlink network analysis.
- Kyosuke Tanaka (graduated from ANU Master of Social Research Advanced in 2015) worked as a part-time research assistant, co-authoring the report "Development Impact of Social Media" (background report for World Bank World Development Report 2016: Digital Dividends) and contributing to research relating to adaptive sampling of large-scale networks.
- Heather Crawford (graduated from ANU Master of Social Research in 2010) worked as a part-time research assistant and also edited the VOSON website.
- Susannah Sabine (graduated from ANU Master of Social Research, Social Science of the Internet stream in 2010) worked as a research assistant to Robert Ackland, assisting with the chapter on WWW hyperlink networks in the NodeXL book.
- Natalie Cooper (ANU employee, 2004-2005) worked as a research assistant to Rachel Gibson and Robert Ackland.
Software developers and testers (former)
- Lin Chen (ANU compsci masters student 2009, ANU employee 2010-2013) worked as a software developer and research assistant. His computer science masters research project was on VOSON-sns.
- Xiantong Chen (ANU compsci masters student 2009) worked on optimising the VOSON C++ code using concurrent programming techniques as the topic of his masters project.
- Stephen Gray (ANU employee, 2003-2007) contributed to code relating to the interaction between PHP and perl (in particular, use of XML to pass results from perl analysis code to PHP user interface code) and implemented a new menuing system using Yahoo UI library.
- Russell Standish (consultant, 2005) worked on incorporating web services into VOSON, including a prototype web service using gSoap, and provided general programming advice.
- Joel McDonald (ANU employee and student, 2001-2004) contributed to code for an earlier Qt-based version of the software, and wrote the first version of the perl-based webcrawler (JSpyda).
- Jenny Ackland has provided research assistance and assistance with documenting and bug testing the VOSON System.