Thursday, September 11, 2008

Network Clustering: Guide to Stereotyping Rob Cross and Kathleen Carley

Recently I mentioned how network clustering on the WWW indicates that Rob Cross and Kathleen Carley each have their own close-knit camps that co-dominate the world of "organizational network analysis." Before that, I shared Ron Burt's point that such close-knit camps are known not only for amazing productivity but also for stereotyping outsiders.

I am outside both the Cross and Carley camps, but I enjoy stereotyping as much as anyone, so today I provide convenient superficial labels with which my readers can simplify the contributions of these two notable network leaders.

Guide to stereotyping Rob Cross and Kathleen Carley:
  1. Rob Cross provides stories for business
  2. Kathleen Carley provides computer models for the military
Wasn't that easy? Now let's look at one example of each stereotype.

(1) The recent research of the Network Roundtable features Cross's "Braintrust Keynote Presentation." Here is his third slide:
Note the simple and compelling story in the top row of the table: Network density within and across departments of less than 20% indicates little collaboration. If you read the actual presentation, you'll see that the "target density" is only 9.4% because the current density is less than half that, so the target is a healthy step up towards 20%. I will skip the other rows of the table for now.

(2) Kathleen Carley's camp responds to the above story with the following article:
As far as stories go, this article sucks. But look, it is classified under "statistical simulation," because the researchers use computer programs not only to analyze networks, but also to create the very networks that they study (no pesky data collection necessary).

For those whose eyes are glazing over, let me summarize the computer model punchline with a picture. The following three networks all have exactly the same density, 20%; and so according to Cross each of the three networks below has exactly the minimum recommended allowance of connectivity to indicate collaboration:
As you can see, density of 20% means different things depending on how many nodes are in the network.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License and is copyrighted (c) 2008 by Connective Associates LLC except where otherwise noted.

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