Levels of Analysis in Computational Social Science

AbstractMarr's levels of analysis constitute one influential approach to the central program of cognitive science---the multilevel analysis of cognition as information processing. The distinctive aspects of Marr's framework are an emphasis on identifying the computational problems and constraints faced in cognition, and conceptual machinery to relate cognitive mechanisms to that computational level of analysis. Although related ideas have been explored in a range of social science disciplines, Marr's framework, and particularly its notion of the precise formulation of computational problems and solutions, has yet to be applied widely in social analysis. In the present work we develop a formulation of Marr's levels for social systems, provide examples of this approach, and address potential criticisms. The consequence is a computational perspective on the sociological school of structural functionalism, and an apparatus for conducting multiscale analysis of social systems.

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