Encyclopedia of Social Network Analysis

My colleague George Barnett has edited the Encyclopedia of Social Network Analysis.

I contributed four entries with co-authors:

WWW Hyperlink Networks

with Robert Ackland, Australian National University

Email networks

with Derek Hansen, Brigham Young University

Blog networks

with John Kelly, Morningside Analytics, Harvard Berkman Center

Facebook networks

with Bernie Hogan, Oxford Internet Institute


This two-volume encyclopedia provides a thorough introduction to the wide-ranging, fast-developing field of social networking, a much-needed resource at a time when new social networks or “communities” seem to spring up on the internet every day. Social networks, or groupings of individuals tied by one or more specific types of interests or interdependencies ranging from likes and dislikes, or disease transmission to the “old boy” network or overlapping circles of friends, have been in existence for longer than services such as Facebook or YouTube; analysis of these networks emphasizes the relationships within the network. The Encyclopedia of Social Networks offers comprehensive coverage of the theory and research within the social sciences that has sprung from the analysis of such groupings, with accompanying definitions, measures, and research.

Featuring approximately 350 signed entries, along with approximately 40 media clips, organized alphabetically and offering cross-references and suggestions for further readings, this encyclopedia opens with a thematic reader’s guide in the front that groups related entries by topics. A chronology offers the reader historical perspective on the study of social networks. This two-volume reference work is a must-have resource for libraries serving researchers interested in the various fields related to social networks, including sociology, social psychology and communication and media studies.

Book: Online Deliberation: Design, Research, and Practice

2009 - ODBook-site-logo

The Second Conference on Online Deliberation: Design, Research, and Practice (OD2005/DIAC-2005) was held at Stanford University May 20-22, 2005. From that event there is now a book,  Online Deliberation: Design, Research, and Practice, edited by Todd Davies and Seeta Peña Gangadharan (CSLI Publications, November 2009).  All content in the book is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.

I will call out a few of the many interesting chapters, one of which I contributed to:

Chapter 5: Friends, Foes, and Fringe: Norms and Structure in Political Discussion Networks (John Kelly, Danyel Fisher, and Marc Smith, pp. 83-93)

And two from colleagues who report on tools for facilitating political debate and decision making:

Chapter 6: Searching the Net for Differences of Opinion (Warren Sack, John Kelly, and Michael Dale, pp. 95-104)

Chapter 26: Online Civic Deliberation with E-Liberate (Douglas Schuler, pp. 293-302)

The book is a great guide to the many ways computer-mediated interaction technologies are being used to build consensus or tear it apart!

2009 - December - Online Deliberation Book Cover

Congressional Tweets Analyzed at UMD

Here is a great piece of social media research from the University of Maryland, College of Information Studies.

Prof. Jen Golbeck and Justin Grimes analyzed 6,000 tweets from United States Congress members.  They found some interaction but a dominant broadcast pattern of use with a focus on self-promotion.  The Washington Post headlines the results as “Tweeting Their Own Horns Study Finds Posts By Lawmakers Boastful or Boring”

Here is the video:

From the UMD News desk:
“A new study by University of Maryland researchers finds a
growing use of Twitter among members of Congress, but that
the purpose and content of their messages fall short of
improving government transparency.

Jennifer Golbeck, assistant professor in the College of Information
Studies, Maryland’s iSchool, a doctoral student and an undergraduate
assistant analyzed more than 5,000 tweets sent by 69 members of
Congress in February. They found that House and Senate members
were using the social media platform mostly to promote themselves,
rather than engage in dialogue with constituents and the public at large.

“Members of Congress were not sharing much new information on
Twitter, and there were few posts that improve transparency,”
Golbeck says.”

2009 Sociological Association Meetings – Internet Sociologists Meet (CITASA @ ASA09)

CITASA Logo @     

The 2009 American Sociological Association Annual Meeting was held in San Francisco, California, August 8-11.

The ASA attracts thousands of sociologists, a subsection of whom have  a passion for the study of the Internet and its many forms of social impacts and uses.  The Communications and Information Technology Section of the American Sociological Association (CITASA) is the group that gathers many forms of social science research on the creation and uses of information technology.  This year’s meeting included two CITASA panels, round tables, a business meeting with awards, and a (windy!) boat ride through San Francisco Bay and beneath the Golden Gate Bridge.

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The CITASA sponsored papers at the conference are listed below.  The range of work illustrates the continued interest in social science studies of the impacts of information technology.

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Paper in the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication: Discussion Catalysts in Political Discussions

My co-authors Eric Gleave, from the University of Washington, Department of Sociology and Itai Himelboim, from the University of Georgia, Department of Communications, are pleased to note the publication of our paper “Discussion catalysts in online political discussions: Content importers and conversation starters” in the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication (JCMC) http://jcmc.indiana.edu/ at http://ping.fm/7NF5T

The paper describes the roles of “discussion cataylsts” who populate political web boards (newsgroups) and start the threads that get people talking!  It turns out that only a very few people in a community get to start many threads successfully.  Discussion catalysts have a knack for sparking conversations: setting the agenda for the community at large.  Discussion people have high “-in-degree”, they get replied to by lots of people, but low “out-degree”, they tend not to reply that much themselves.  The people whoreply to discussion catalysts, in contrast, do reply to one another densely.  These are the discussion people, a role  that will be the focus of a subsequent paper!

JCMC - Discussion Catalysts
JCMC - Discussion Catalysts


This study addresses 3 research questions in the context of online political discussions: What is the distribution of successful topic starting practices, what characterizes the content of large thread-starting messages, and what is the source of that content? A 6-month analysis of almost 40,000 authors in 20 political Usenet newsgroups identified authors who received a disproportionate number of replies. We labeled these authors ‘‘discussion catalysts.’’ Content analysis revealed that 95 percent of discussion catalysts’ messages contained content imported from elsewhere on the web, about 2/3 from traditional news organizations. We conclude that the flow of information from the content creators to the readers and writers continues to be mediated by a few individuals who act as filters and amplifiers.

Previously, we published “Picturing Usenet” in the JCMC, a paper that features several images of information visualizations of threaded discussions and authors over time.  That paper was based on an early work with Fernanda Viegas (now at IBM Research, Cambridge, then as an MIT graduate student in the MediaLab interning with me at Microsoft Research in Redmond, Washington).
[2009 – JCMC- Discussion Catalysts – Himelboim, Gleave and Smith]

Paper: Reader-to-Leader Framework: Motivating Technology-Mediated Social Participation, Preece & Shneiderman

Preece and Shneiderman: Reader to Leader Framework

I just read a new paper from Jennifer Preece and Ben Shneiderman that provides a nice framework for the ways people contribute at different rates to collective projects in general and social media on the Internet in particular.

Preece, Jennifer and Shneiderman, Ben (2009).  The Reader-to-Leader Framework: Motivating Technology-Mediated Social Participation, AIS Transactions on Human-Computer Interaction (1) 1, pp. 13-32.

Available at: http://aisel.aisnet.org/thci/vol1/iss1/5, the paper is published in a new journal, Association for Information Systems  Transactions on Human-Computer Interaction, and is likely to be of interest to those in the social media and network analysis community. The main argument is that there are distinctive activities that people move through: initially as readers, then contributors (in small then larger ways), then collaborating with others to make larger contributions, and then to leadership (policy making, enforcement, coping with disruptions, mentoring novices, etc.).  The figure (above) from the paper is modeled on Wikipedia where these activities have been studied extensively, but they argue that these activities can be found in many technology-mediated social media.  The conversion rate from one activity to another is often as low as 1 percent (for example, there are half-a -billion readers of wikipedia, but just 1600 admins who are effectively the leaders), so the paper offers suggestions for improving the usability and sociability design to raise the conversion rate.