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An introduction to social network analysis

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 23, 2003

An introduction to social network analysis.

Reader comments

topherbeckerApr 23, 2003 at 11:26AM

One of the program officers where I work funds research in social network for the DoD. This is one of the up and coming areas of science following the terrorist attacks of September 11th. The idea is to map terrorist networks, focus in on key players (ie. nodes) in the network and ‘disable’ them. Interestingly, this work can also be used to help contain the spread of viruses such as smallpox. It helps answer questions such as ‘What bridges and highways do we need to limit use of to prevent an epidemic.

One of the leaders in this field is Albert-László Barabási. His latest book is Linked: The New Science of Networks.

ShmuelApr 23, 2003 at 11:59AM

It also sounds like the sort of technology that would be needed to silence any view point that is not favored by a government using the system. It’s interesting to me that the very reason for inventing the Internet (distribution of the network) is now the very thing we are fighting hardest to squelch. We are now seeking the weaknesses in our cold war weapon because we underestimated it’s strength.

GeofApr 23, 2003 at 12:28PM

“It also sounds like the sort of technology that would be needed to silence any view point that is not favored by a government using the system.” Well, any tool can be used as a weapon, and any weapon can be used for offensive and defensive purposes.

You either sound surprised or frustrated. I think that you should be neither; history would tend to attenuate surprise, and the ability of the network to not create broker relationships too often in cognizance of any potential crackdown solves the latter problem.

Nope, sky’s not falling.

I find this interesting from the standpoint of a community I’m working in. The community itself is rather interconnected, and while I’m somewhat the community leader, I’m also a broker due to my relationship with people inside the band—which the community’s built around. There are others in this position, but it’s just fun to watch this network build itself.

ValdisApr 23, 2003 at 12:44PM

Yes, terrorist maps have been built with both secret intelligence data inside the government, and with public data outside the government. For a public data example see:

— http://www.firstmonday.org/issues/issue7_4/krebs/

This is an example of the power of the new social network tools — they are not solely in the hands of big gov or big biz any longer.

Look at what this artist, the late Mark Lombardi, did with public data… he created network maps as ART! These maps reveal political and financial corruption.

— http://www.pierogi2000.com/flatfile/lombardi.html
[scroll down to see examples of the network maps]

Why don’t investigative journalists use these tools to illustrate their complex investigations?

And then there is contact tracing around infectious diseases such as SARS and TB…

— http://www.orgnet.com/contagion.html

FranApr 24, 2003 at 1:37PM

Jason, thanks for this. I direct a psychiatric partial hospital, and the analysis is a graphical method for patient’s to look at communication and affiliation patterns in their family and social groups. I have passed it on to the art therapist who will adapt it.

This thread is closed to new comments. Thanks to everyone who responded.