Social science at Microsoft

The current issue of Technology Review has a thought-provoking interview with Marc Smith, senior research sociologist for Microsoft, who studies the development of online communities.

Turns out, the elements of his sociological training that make him useful to Microsoft are very much a part of Political Science: collective action theory. Issues such as free-riding are central to the formation of online communities (or lack thereof), and this is increasingly being acknowledged by tech companies.

Kate Greene (TR) points out that "Yahoo!, Intel, and Google are snatching up sociologists and economists in order to develop new products and optimize existing technology." Smith suggests that Microsoft may be planning to hire more, though he emphasizes that candidates would need "computer savvy."

Perhaps there's meaningful work for tech-oriented political scientists, as well...