Monday, July 24, 2006

Networks of negative relationships

Social networks bring to mind collaboration for many of us; however, the word "network" is equally appropriate to describe interconnected negative relationships. Yesterday's NY Times featured an amazing picture of the Middle East where the links run the gamut from "rivals" to "deep hatred" to "sworn enemies" to "war":
As I mentioned in a post on jerks and fools at the office, negative relationships often influence the big picture more than their positive counterparts, and the study of negative-valued social networks is still underappreciated. Professor Joe Labianca is one of the researchers working hardest at "balancing the ledger" to understand social networks that include negative as well as positive relationships.

Asking someone to name his sworn enemies amongst his co-workers might be impractical. But in "no holds barred" arenas (love, war, etc.) mapping negative relationships is sometimes feasible and almost always more revealing than mapping positive relationships. Just take a look at these network maps of political scandal previously published by the NY Times to see how lame positive-valued network maps can be in comparison to the Middle East map of hatred, above.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 License and is copyrighted (c) 2006 by Connective Associates except where otherwise noted.


Valdis said...

Here is an interactive network map that uses positive AND negative ties.

Steffen Mazanek said...

Hello Bruce,

do you know openbc and linkedin? Those platforms allow you to keep track of your friendly network. On the opposite side, there is a funny platform called nemester, where you give your negative links and get the enemies of your enemies instead of the friends of your friends. This can be rather useful for forming alliances etc.

I have written about it (unfortunately in German) here.