Visual and Exploratory Network Analysis for Social Scientists

When: Monday, November 19, 2012 at 3:00 pm
Where: DA 5th fl
Speaker: Paul Girard
Organization: Sciences Po medialab, Paris France
Sponsor: CCNR Seminar

Why do digital social scientists love network? What are the current issues we face when working with networks?

Studying the social has for its very origin raised the question of individuals interactions against social structures. Emile Durkheim considered by most as the father of sociology was taught by the less famous Gabriel Tarde. Their divide on the crucial question on individual against structural social theories in the early 20th century vanished with the raise of statistics. Durkheims structuralism won on the physolophical Monadology from Tarde. Once century later Bruno Latour, sociologist of science, read back Gabriel Tarde as a precursor of his own actor-network theories. In the early 21st century the raise of digital intermediate social relationships re-open the Durkheim-Tarde’s debate. We argue that network theories have a crucial place in the new methodologies needed by the digital social sciences. We love networks for their promise not to split the social between individual and structures. But we remain socialscientists and matrices are not exactly the best way to engage with complexity. We develop methods for visual and exploratory network analysis for which layout algorithms are key players. Force vector are nice but empirics. What would be a mathematical (geometrical) way to measure the information we lost by reducing the n-1 dimension of a network to the 2d we are using? The tree of layout non empirical layout algorithms hide the forest of network theories issues: bridging, community detection, dynamic network… Yes, we might get lost in the forest, please help. Last but not least, visual networks also bring design issues we face specially when leaving exploration to spread findings. What would storytelling mean when using networks complexity and exploration path as media and message?