Research

Resilience through deviance. I study economic and organizational actors, such as entrepreneurs, who must overcome failure. What happens to failed actors? How do they regain legitimacy? I take advantage of new sources of both massive and intimate data to dissect behavior and infuse it with meaning. My dissertation, for example, uses online startup postmortems and the comments they generate to understand how entrepreneurs maintain their standing in the peer community following startup failure. I use advanced computational social science techniques to analyze this data, including multiplex and dynamic network analysis, online field experiments, data mining, and machine learning, in addition to surveys, lab experiments, and interviews. While my research capitalizes on large-scale data patterns, I rely on understanding these patterns through engagement with the individual actors involved. This research style is informed by my pre-academia  experience building applications for social video games, augmented reality interfaces, national security, and rural farming cooperatives, and analyzing the social data they generated. My work spans the fields of organizational theory, economic sociology, and network science.


Organizational Theory


Online Field Experiments: Studying Social Interactions in Context.” Parigi, Paolo, Jessica J. Santana, and Karen S. Cook. Social Psychology Quarterly 2017, Vol. 80, 1-19.

Abstract: Thanks to the Internet and the related availability of “Big Data,” social interactions and their environmental context can now be studied experimentally. In this article, we discuss a methodology that we term the online field experiment to differentiate it from more traditional lab-based experimental designs. We explain how this experimental method can be used to capture theoretically relevant environmental conditions while also maximizing the researcher’s control over the treatment(s) of interest. We argue that this methodology is particularly well suited for social psychology because of its focus on social interactions and the factors that influence the nature and structure of these interactions. We provide one detailed example of an online field experiment used to investigate the impact of the sharing economy on trust behavior. We argue that we are fundamentally living in a new social world in which the Internet mediates a growing number of our social interactions. These highly prevalent forms of social interaction create opportunities for the development of new research designs that allow us to advance our theories of social interaction and social structure with new data sources.

Press Coverage and Other Mentions:

American Marketing Association, San Francisco, August 30, 2017: How to Build Trust in a Digital World.

Stanford Daily, April 4, 2017: Stanford Sociologists Encourage Researchers to Study Human Behavior with Help of Existing Online Communities, Big Data.

Joe Gebbia (Airbnb Founder) TED Talk, February 2016: How Airbnb designs for trust.

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Network Science


Investor Commitment to Serial Entrepreneurs: A Multilayer Network Analysis.” Santana, J., Raine Hoover, and Meera Vengadasubbu. Social Networks 2017, Vol. 48, 256-269.

Abstract: Social networks are complex systems composed of interdependent organizations and people with diverse network structures. Understanding network dynamics, such as exchange commitment, requires a methodological toolkit that does not assume away complexity. In this study, we extend a technique for analyzing longitudinal, multilayer network data called network alignment. We introduce a novel metric – intersect proportions – for analyzing similarity between divergent graphs. We demonstrate the application of network alignment and intersect proportions to the context of investor commitment to startups and entrepreneurs. Using this technique, we are able to disentangle exchange commitment across complex networks.

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Economic Sociology


Trust and Rational Choice.” Cook, Karen S. and Jessica J. Santana. In Oxford Handbook of Political and Social Trust, by Eric Uslaner (Ed.), 2017, Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Abstract: This chapter provides an overview of the rational choice orientation to the study of trust, rooted primarily in economics, political science, and sociology. Conceptualizations of trust that build on a rational choice framework focus on the cognitions that form the basis of judgments of trustworthiness and decisions to place trust in another, as well as the embeddedness of trust relations in networks, groups, and institutions. The strengths of rational choice approaches to trust and their limitations are discussed, and brief comparisons are made with other approaches that have gained popularity in the social sciences (many of which are represented in this volume). Much of the trust we see in society is based on reasoned assessments of the evidence at hand that lead one to evaluate others as trustworthy given past performance, reputational information, and the incentives at play, including those derived from network embeddedness or the institutional context.

Risk Aversion and Engagement in the Sharing Economy.” Santana, J.; Parigi, P. Games 2015, 6, 560-573.

Abstract: The sharing economy is a new online community that has important implications for offline behavior. This study evaluates whether engagement in the sharing economy is associated with an actor’s aversion to risk. Using a web-based survey and a field experiment, we apply an adaptation of Holt and Laury’s (2002) risk lottery game to a representative sample of sharing economy participants. We find that frequency of activity in the sharing economy predicts risk aversion, but only in interaction with satisfaction. While greater satisfaction with sharing economy websites is associated with a decrease in risk aversion, greater frequency of usage is associated with greater risk aversion. This analysis shows the limitations of a static perspective on how risk attitudes relate to participation in the sharing economy.

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