Duncan Watts, principal researcher at Microsoft Research and path-breaking investigator of our connected age, was the recipient of the Everett M. Rogers Award for 2014.
On November 20, 2014, Watts presented “Social Influence in Markets and Networks” at the Everett M. Rogers Colloquium luncheon at the USC Annenberg School for Communication. He described the surprising difficulty of empirically identifying social influence, which – despite the metaphor of “going viral” – doesn’t necessarily spread in anything like the way that infectious diseases do.
His first paper, “Collective Dynamics of ‘Small-World’ Networks,” published in Nature in 1998, quickly became a blueprint for network science. It has been cited more than 23,000 times – one of the most-cited papers in any field in the past two decades. As recounted in his book Six Degrees: The Science of a Connected Age, his research on the Keven Bacon Game and connectedness ultimately led him to insights about how influences like diseases, rumors, cultural fads, financial crises and social unrest propagate through a human population.
Watts was a professor of sociology at Columbia University from 2000 to 2007. He went on to be a principal research scientist at Yahoo! Research, where he directed the Human Social Dynamics Group, before joining Microsoft. His most recent book is Everything is Obvious Once You Know the Answer: How Common Sense Fails Us.