SNA in Mathematica 9

December 17, 2012

social-network-analysisThe new version 9 of Wolfram’s Mathematica includes a set of quite diverse social network analysis functions. They include a range of import formats (including Pajek, GXL and GraphML) to load your own data, but you can also extract data from social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook. Networks can be visualised and different lay-out algorithms can be used. It also includes a range of analysis techniques like communities, centrality, cliques and homophily. In addition, scale-free networks can be simulated.

I have not yet tried the software myself, so a full review is still pending. At first sight the combination of these functions makes Mathematica 9 look quite comprehensive for SNA. But there is no indication that its analytical capabilities are as exhaustive as Pajek or that its import/export formats are as flexible as UCINET. Other alternatives with a nice graphical user interface like Cytoscape and Gephi also include most of the features of Mathematica 9, although maybe the latter works faster than the other two? I believe the biggest strength might be that these SNA tools are integrated in a large mathematical program with diverse functionality, which might allow for pushing SNA results further.

Feel free to comment if you have experience with Mathematica. Would love to hear about how good this is.


Basketball is a network

December 14, 2012

Screen shot 2012-12-10 at 10.47.22Ever thought of basketball players as nodes in a small network, connected by passes? A recently published study did just that, revealing that the aggregated decisions on a basketball court reflect strengths and weaknesses in a team’s strategy. A team led by Jennifer Fewell and Dieter Armbruster published their findings in the journal PLoS One. They tracked all passes between basketball team members during the 2010 NBA play-offs. The networks reveal differences between teams’ strategies, and centrality and entropy measures are used to capture these differences.

Wired magazine wrote a very readable overview of this and similar sports statistics work.

Since the article is published in an open access journal it is freely available to all, isn’t that great. Here is the article abstract:

We asked how team dynamics can be captured in relation to function by considering games in the first round of the NBA 2010 play-offs as networks. Defining players as nodes and ball movements as links, we analyzed the network properties of degree centrality, clustering, entropy and flow centrality across teams and positions, to characterize the game from a network perspective and to determine whether we can assess differences in team offensive strategy by their network properties. The compiled network structure across teams reflected a fundamental attribute of basketball strategy. They primarily showed a centralized ball distribution pattern with the point guard in a leadership role. However, individual play-off teams showed variation in their relative involvement of other players/positions in ball distribution, reflected quantitatively by differences in clustering and degree centrality. We also characterized two potential alternate offensive strategies by associated variation in network structure: (1) whether teams consistently moved the ball towards their shooting specialists, measured as “uphill/downhill” flux, and (2) whether they distributed the ball in a way that reduced predictability, measured as team entropy. These network metrics quantified different aspects of team strategy, with no single metric wholly predictive of success. However, in the context of the 2010 play-offs, the values of clustering (connectedness across players) and network entropy (unpredictability of ball movement) had the most consistent association with team advancement. Our analyses demonstrate the utility of network approaches in quantifying team strategy and show that testable hypotheses can be evaluated using this approach. These analyses also highlight the richness of basketball networks as a dataset for exploring the relationships between network structure and dynamics with team organization and effectiveness.


Portus and ACRG work on BBC 1

December 11, 2012

Visualisation of Harbour produced by BBC for Rome’s Lost Empire in collaboration with Portus Project

Visualisation of Harbour produced by BBC for Rome’s Lost Empire in collaboration with Portus Project

On Sunday a show called Rome’s Lost Empire featured loads of great work by Southampton archaeologists. Since 2007 a team led by Prof. Simon Keay and Dr. Graeme Earl has been excavating at Portus, the port of the city of ancient Rome. The BBC 1 show reveals some of their latest findings, as well as the 3D modelling work of our Archaeological Computing Research Group team.

You can watch the show on BBC iPlayer.

Read more about the computer models that were created for this show on the Portus blog. There you can also read a message by Prof. Simon Keay about the show.


Social Media in Live Events publication

December 10, 2012

Screen shot 2012-12-06 at 16.25.46I wrote a few times already about the SMiLE project led by Lisa Harris and Nicole Beale that I am part of. The team presented at the Personal Learning Environment (PLE) conference a few months ago and the paper of that presentation is now included in the online proceedings. You can access the full version on the PLE website or through my bibliography. The paper presents some early findings on our social media strategy applied to the CAA conference 2012 in Southampton.

More cool stuff is to come from the SMiLE team, and we have some great innovative network analysis things in the pipeline, so stay tuned 🙂

Harris, L., Earl, G., Beale, N., Phethean, C., & Brughmans, T. 2012. Building Personal Learning Networks through Event- Based Social Media : a Case Study of the SMiLE Project The Growth of the “ Backchannel ”. In PLE Conference Proceedings, Personal Learning Environment Conference 2012, http://revistas.ua.pt/index.php/ple/article/view/1.

In this paper we report on early findings of our SMiLE project which is evaluating how effective various online social networking channels can be in supporting how people network and learn from a major ‘live’ conference. The event took place at the University of Southampton in March 2012. We consider the dynamics of the relation- ship between ‘real’ and ‘virtual’ communities in the development of personal learning networks, for example how social networking impacts upon participants’ interaction and engagement before, during and after the event as the community of practice de- velops. Assessing the impact of social networking activity on ‘real world’ outcomes has historically been a difficult task, but we argue that recent developments in social network visualisation and analysis now enable valuable insights to be generated for the benefit of both event organisers and attendees seeking to build their subject knowledge and extend their networks.
We begin with a brief review of networking theory and the emerging role of the
online backchannel at ‘live’ events, before describing the approach we took to the col- lection and analysis of social media data from the CAA Conference. We then discuss the implications of our findings for people looking to build learning networks through the increasingly blurred boundaries of ‘real’ and ‘virtual’ networks. We conclude by highlighting some lessons learned and possible directions for future research. Our findings also have relevance to the PLE conference itself – which this year has the added dynamic of two face to face locations for the conference operating at the same time to pose new multi-channel communication and learning challenges for partici- pants.


Personal Histories of CAA film

December 6, 2012

Screen shot 2012-12-06 at 15.10.30A while ago I wrote about the Personal Histories of CAA session I organised with Gareth Beale at the CAA conference in March 2012. We are delighted to announce that the Personal Histories of the Computer Applications and Quantitative Methods in Archaeology conference (CAA) film has now been edited and is available on the CAA website and Personal Histories project’s website.

The 2012 edition at Southampton was the 40th anniversary of the CAA conference. We celebrated this event with the “Personal Histories of CAA” session held at the CAA conference venue on Wednesday 28 March, from 2pm to 4pm. At this celebratory session the founders, former chairs and key members of CAA throughout the last 4 decades shared their personal experiences with us. We were honoured that for this event we were able to welcome to Southampton Sue Laflin, Phil Barker, Clive Orton, John Wilcock, Nick Ryan, Paul Reilly and Hans Kamermans, as well as listen to an interview with Irwin Scollar. The session was moderated by the current chair of CAA, Gary Lock. The contributors discussed the advances in the field of archaeological computing fostered by the CAA as well as many personal social experiences.

We hope you enjoy this film and the many personal anecdotes it contains. We hope the next 40 years will be equally exciting.

Tom Brughmans, Gareth Beale, Pamela Jane Smith

Archaeological Computing Research Group
University of Southampton

McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research
University of Cambridge