Friday, February 25, 2005

Sunbelt Goes to the Oscars

I am dried off from the record-setting rains of Sunbelt XXV and ready to start reflecting... about this weekend's big Oscar hoo-ha (sort of).

Some of the things I like about social network analysis include (1) using something fundamentally simple like a set of nodes and edges to illuminate very complex behavior, and (2) producing powerful images that convey social dynamics very intuitively.

James Moody demonstrated both these points spectacularly in his Freeman Award Presentation. Moody was recognized at Sunbelt XXV as the most outstanding young researcher in SNA.

Moody described a simple principle involving three individuals, A, B, and C: If A likes B, and B likes C, then A will probably also like C. Otherwise (if A does not like C) things can get tense between friends A and B, producing social instability.

Using little more than this principle of transitivity (also known as clustering), Moody has built a social network model that behaves with an amazingly lifelike quality. If you've got broadband, then I recommend you get some popcorn and take a look at this movie (18MB). The nodes and edges do an amazing job of conveying the dynamics of a cocktail party. And even more amazing is the simplicity of the model behind this behavior. Bravo!

To see the other movies nominated for "Best Network Visualization," take a look at "Dynamic Network Visualization" by Moody, Daniel McFarland, and Skye Bender-deMoll.

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