Thoughts on the 5th Trier Summer School on Social Network Analysis #tsna

I spent most of last week at the 5th Trier Summer School on Social Network Analysis. I have to say that Mar­kus Gam­per, Andreas Herz and Richard Heidler were doing a great job as lecturers and convenors of the workshops. John Padgett from the University of Chicago held an inspiring keynote speech on the first night talking about his enduring work on the Medici.

The first two days were filled with theory (an excellent, extensive reading list was provided prior to the course), the last 3.5 days were practical training with real data using different types of software, namely PajekGephi, Vennmaker and R. While I was already familiar with a number of the readings and concepts discussed, the use of the different software tools for data entry, visualization and analysis was still new to me. Although we discussed a number of interesting data sets, the most entertaining one was the network of Richard’s wedding party where people were seated at tables based on friendship cliques. I guess you can tell that Richard treasures his profession and discipline 😉

5te trierer summer school 21

The most valuable bit of the week was probably a session that could best be translated as ‘research consultancy’. Everyone had the chance to submit their project proposals by the beginning of the summer in order to have them reviewed by the researchers listed above. I have had some feedback on my work from colleagues in my discipline when attending the AOM2011, however the summer school was a great chance to collect more ideas in methodological terms. Richard made me aware of the use of R for generating stochastic models of networks and conducting significance tests, for example.

Throughout the week I paid closer (than usual) attention to the #SNA hashtag on Twitter and discovered a few interesting posts. There is an active Gephi community in Berlin. Furthermore, I discovered niche sites for SNA in historical research and SNA in organizational research. Last but not least, I came across a new tool for managerial network analysis called Socilyzer.

List of Social Network Courses in Europe

One particularly useful source of information that I draw on frequently is the SOCNET mailing list. Sometime towards the end of last year Christopher Tunnard collected information on the different types of social network courses being offered internationally. He consequently collected the data in a spreadsheet and you can now browse all courses by institution, instructor, category and name. I think this is pretty helpful when you’re trying to locate a course near you in a particular academic field. So, if you’re based in Europe and you’re interested in organization studies, psychology and communications – just like myself – you may find the following courses insightful:

Aarhus University: Introductory Social Network Analysis & Organizational Network Analysis

Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona: Theory, Methods and Applications of Social Networks (Summer School)

University of Essex: Introduction & Advanced Social Network Analysis (Summer School)

University of Glasgow: Assessing the Impact of Social Networks on Organizational Performance

University of Greenwich: Business Networks

Universität Trier: Sum­mer School on So­ci­al Net­work Ana­ly­sis

Tilburg University: Interorganizational Relationships

Call for Talks: InterFace 2011

And here’s another recommendation: This time it’s not for a journal submission, but instead for an event that I find particularly interesting due to the format chosen by the organizers. The InterFace 2011 will take place this summer in London and is a mix of short PhD talks (2 minutes), workshops (including SNA) and an unconference (see Wikipedia article if you haven’t heard the term before). The InterFace is supposed to bring together researchers from the fields of technology and humanities. Deadline for submission of abstracts is March 11, 2011.

Call for Talks

A core component of the programme will be a lightning talks session in which each participant will make a two-minute presentation on their research. The session will be lively and dynamic. Each presentation must be exactly two minutes long, making use of necessary, interesting, appropriate, or entertaining visual or sound aids, and condensing a whole Ph.D’s worth of ideas and work into this short slot.

Participants will be able to join workshops in:

  • network analysis;
  • bibliographic software;
  • data visualisation;
  • linked data.

There will be talks on:

  • user studies and social research;
  • discourse analysis in science and technology;
  • how to get your work published;
  • how to apply for research funding.

There will also be two keynote talks given by speakers whose work marks the leading edge of technology in scholarship and practice. The speakers will be:

  • Steven Scrivener (University of Arts London): Design research and creative production

Finally, the symposium will conclude with an unconference; a participatory, collaborative, and informal event in which the form and content is decided on by participants as it unfolds and in which discussion and production is emphasised over presentation and analysis. Participants may wish to share their own skills, learn a new skill, establish and develop a collaborative project, or hold a focused discussion.

The most prolific authors in the field of social network analysis

Below is an account of the most prolific authors in the field of social network analysis as recorded by Otte and Rousseau in 2002. The authors were ranked according to the numbers of publications in the Sociological Abstracts database. I have linked the names to the researchers’ websites and included their Twitter accounts, if avaible, in parentheses. Alternatively, you can also visit their profiles on the INSNA website. If you know of any more recent references or are aware of similar studies from different academic disciplines, I would certainly love to hear from you. Similarly, I would like to know whether I’ve missed anyone who’s already on Twitter.

Wellman, Barry (@barrywellman)
Skvoretz, John
Bonacich, Phillip
Everett, Martin G.
Willer, David
Burt, Ronald S.
Friedkin, Noah E.
Borgatti, Stephen P. (@ittagroB)
Johnsen, Eugene C.
Faust, Katherine

Otte, E., & Rousseau, R. (2002). Social network analysis: a powerful strategy, also for the information sciences. Journal of Information Science, 28(6), 441.

The History of Social Network Analysis

While I did come across a lot of technical writing about social network analysis to this date, I wasn’t lucky enough to stumble upon the works of Linton C. Freeman and Steve Borgatti until fairly recently. Professor Freeman has written a complete book on the Development of Social Network Analysis and Professor Borgatti and his colleagues have published a paper that serves as an overview to Network Analysis in the Social Sciences. Both are worth a read and I thought I’d share the links with you. Enjoy!

Workshop: Business Applications of Social Network Analysis

On the 15th of December 2010 there will be a workshop on business applications of social network analysis in Bangalore, India.
The aim of this workshop is to encourage multidisciplinary discussions related to novel ideas and application geared towards analyzing social network data. By bringing together researchers in the fields of SNA, data mining, and management studies, the workshop will focus on identifying the “grey” areas of collaboration among their respective disciplines:
  • The role of data mining techniques in identifying scalable methods for the extraction and organization of social relations for management research and business practice
  • The role of management research in guiding data mining efforts and SNA metrics development towards theoretically-grounded discoveries about social network emergence.
  • The role of Social Network Analysis in developing and applying metrics and tools for the mapping, evaluation, visualization, and design of social relations in organizations.


Common Applications of Social Network Analysis

So far, I throroughly enjoyed everything I read by Rob Cross. He provides hands-on experience on how to use social network analysis within organizations. In his book The hidden power of social networks he even provides a step-by-step guide and sample questionnaires on how to conduct your own analyses.

According to Professor Cross, the more common applications of social network analysis include:

  • Supporting partnerships and alliances
  • Assessing strategy execution
  • Improving strategic decision making in top leadership teams
  • Integrating networks across core processes
  • Promoting innovation
  • Ensuring integration post-merger or large-sclae change
  • Developing communities of practice

Can you recommend any further applied writings on the subject? If so, I’d be happy to hear from you. Please drop me a line.

6th UK Social Networks Conference

The 6th UK Social Networks Conference will take place in Manchester from the 12th to the 16th of April, 2010, and offers an interdisciplinary venue for social and behavioural scientists, sociologists, educationalists, political scientists, mathematicians, computer scientists, physicists, practitioners and others to present their work in the area of social networks. The primary objective of the conference is to facilitate interactions between the many different disciplines interested in network analysis. The conference provides a unique opportunity for the dissemination and debate of recent advances in theoretical and experimental network research.

This year special attention would be dedicated to the history of network analysis, its link to mixing methods techniques and environment and network evolution.

Keynote Speakers

  • Professor Linton Freeman, University of California, Irvine The history of SNA and the Manchester group (an outsider’s view)
  • Professor Russell Bernard, University of Florida Mixing methods in social network research
  • Professor Patrick Doreian, University of Pittsburgh, University of Ljubljana Environments, network and network evolution