A new article co-authored with Jan Delhey and Katharina Cirlanaru titled Between 'Class Project and Individualization: The Stratification of Europeans' Transnational Activities is now available in the latest issue of International Sociology.
In this article we examine which social groups are most involved in transnational activities such as studying and working abroad, following foreign news, or having friends from other countries, how this varies across European societies and why. One of our findings is that the upper social classes are more transnationally active than the lower ones and that this gap in transnational activity is larger in more affluent countries (see figure on the right).
From mid-March, I will be in Princeton (New Jersey) for a research stay. Prof. Miguel Centeno, chair of Princeton University's Sociology Department, invited me to visit the research community Global Systemic Risk at the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies.
The common goal of the interdisciplinary research group, which involves scientists from many fields, including computer science, economics, engineering, history, philosophy, mathematics, physical sciences, psychology, political science, and sociology, is to "focus on the robustness and fragility of global human-made organizational systems and is concerned with risks that have short- to medium-term likelihood and consequences". They argue that "[t]he interdependence of massive global interactions and structures has caused systemic risk to increase exponentially in recent times. Tangible risks—in systems as diverse as energy exploration and production, electricity transmission, computer networks, healthcare, food and water supplies, transportation networks, commerce, and finance—now threaten global political, economic, and financial systems that affect citizens of every nation. As a result, the study of risk has the potential to become an important and influential academic and policy field."
I am looking forward to an exciting collaboration with Prof. Centeno and his colleagues at Princeton University.
A draft version of my paper The Spatial Structure of Transnational Human Activity is now available online in the arXiv.
The map below shows exemplarily one type of communication that is analyzed in the paper: transnational Facebook friendships. The black lines denote the country pairs with the highest number of Facebook friendships. For the purposes of this study, they constitute the equivalent of the steps the random walker takes in the Lévy flight figure above. (NB: The Facebook data was obtained from an interactive graph, converted into a network matrix and graphically mapped using Manish Nag's fantastic free software SONOMA).
The third figure below shows the spatial structure of these Facebook friendships. The x-axis shows the distance (in km) and the y-axis states the probability of a transnational Facebook friendship to occur. The blue circles denote binned observations and the black line is a fitted power-law curve. The inset shows the same observations on logarithmic axes, on which the power-law curve forms a straight line.
While it appears to be relatively common for social scientists to reconstruct social networks of characters within literary works (see for example the network study of the characters in Dante's inferno by Amedeo Cappelli and colleagues or the social graph of the characters in the Marvel comics universe), or to analyse the real-world social networks of authors (see for example Adam Obeng's work on William Godwin's acquaintance networks), to my knowledge, little attention has been given to explicit or implicit occurences of social network analysis within the substance of world literature itself. I just stumbled upon this interesting section in the French essayist Paul Valéry's 1896 La soirée avec M. Teste that describes the narrator's thoughts upon observing a theater audience (which evidently stands for society in general):
Chacun était à sa place, libre d’un petit mouvement. Je goûtais le système de classification, la simplicité presque théorique de l’assemblée, l’ordre social. J’avais la sensation délicieuse que tout ce qui respirait dans ce cube, allait suivre ses lois, flamber de rires par grands cercles, s’émouvoir par plaques, ressentir par masses des choses intimes, - uniques, - des remuements secrets, s’élever à l’inavouable! J’errais sur ces étages d’hommes, de ligne en ligne, par orbites, avec la fantaisie de joindre idéalement entre eux, tous ceux ayant la même maladie, ou la même théorie, ou le même vice...
This paragraph made me wonder whether Paul Valéry must be considered the first social network analyst. Isn't connecting people who have something in common via ideal lines while leaving those who have nothing in common disconnected exactly what network analysts do today? After all, network studies in epidemiology connect people suffering from the same maladie, studies of co-citation networks allow for following the bonds between people with the same théorie, and network analyses of mafia clans describe connections between those who have fallen for the same vice. Thus, in a way, Valery described as a fantaisie in 1896 what network analysts would actually do in the future, decades before Jacob L. Moreno's 1930s invention of sociometry and even longer before John A. Barnes' first mentioning of the term "social network" in 1954.
On a sidenote, Paul Valéry started writing La soirée avec M. Teste in 1895 in the same house (No. 9, Rue de la Vieille-Intendance in Montpellier) in which Auguste Comte, one of the founding fathers of sociology, was born a century earlier, in 1798. What a small world.
A new article, "Between Collaboration and Disobedience: The Behavior of the Guantánamo Detainees and Its Consequences", is now available online ahead-of-print in the Journal of Conflict Resolution. Based on a novel dataset created from Joint Task Force Guantanamo–authored memoranda on 765 detainees which had been purloined by Bradley Manning and published by WikiLeaks in April 2011, this study examines the behavior of the Guantánamo detainees in terms of collaboration and disobedience and how it influences their chances of getting a release recommendation. The centerpiece of the analysis is a network of incriminations between detainees. The figure below, which is taken from the article, shows a graphical representation of these accusations for a sample of detainees from the four largest national groups at Guantánamo (Yemenis, Saudi Arabians, Afghans, and Pakistanis). It indicates that Yemenis and Saudi Arabians heavily overcontribute regarding incriminating statements, whereas Afghans and Pakistanis undercontribute.
In addition, the article reports that while a few detainees incriminate many others and many detainees incriminate only few others (the distribution of incriminating statements obeys a power law), the majority (62.6 percent) of all detainees do not incriminate anyone. Disobedient behavior does not affect the likelihood of getting a release recommendation, except for hunger striking, which has a negative effect. By releasing information, detainees don’t improve their own chances of getting release recommendations but impair those of the detainees they implicate. In the discussion at the end of the article, three different groups of detainees are identified (high-level-, low-level, and non-collaborators) whose behavioral patterns seem to follow distinct logics.
Key words: Guantánamo, terrorism, social network analysis, power law, mosaic theory, learned helplessness, power-dependence, WikiLeaks