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folks in chicago this friday might find this symposium at AAAS of interest.

Interdisciplinary Approaches to the Study of Large-Scale Human Networks*

Date/time: Friday, Feb 13, 2009, 1:30 PM - 4:30 PM
Location: HRC Columbus GH

Symposium abstract: There is a small but rapidly emerging thread of research
on large-scale human networks. This work is based on the digital traces
people leave behind of their communications, through their use of e-mail,
mobile phones, instant messaging, and many other tools of the information
age. Until recently, the study of social networks (largely within sociology)
was almost exclusively based on surveys of who has relationships with whom.
As a result, most research on networks has involved a single snapshot of a
small human system. In contrast, the more recent work on call log and
instant messaging data involves massively longitudinal data on millions or
hundreds of millions of people. It is, however, unclear what these data can
tell us. What is the significance, for example, of a phone call between two
people? Does it signify, for example, a friendship or a wrong number? The
objective of this symposium is to pull together an interdisciplinary panel
to discuss the scientific potential of these emerging large-scale network
data. Disciplines represented include physics, information science,
communications, sociology, medicine, political science, and computer

David Lazer, Harvard
*Life in the Network: The Coming Age of Computational Social Science*
Large-scale network analysis is based on massive amounts of observations of
communication behavior, while small scale network analysis has been based on
self report data. Whereas the scientific relevance of the latter has been
well established, based on decades of research, it is less clear what the
scientific significance of the former. This talk, using illustrations from a
variety of data sources, will examine the scientific potential of large
scale network analysis.

Albert-Laszlo Barabasi, Northeastern University, Boston, MA
*People in Motion: Studying Human Movement Based on Mobile Phone Data*
The next challenge of network research is to go beyond the structure and
quantify the dynamics of interconnected systems. A particular difficult
facet of this research requires us to understand the temporal and spatial
driving forces that govern social, technological and biological networks. I
plan to focus on the opportunities offered by large datasets collected by
mobile phone carriers to explore the dynamical mechanism that drive the
activity of social networks as well as the travel pattern of individuals in
social systems.

Alex Pentland, MIT
*Honest Signals Predict Outcomes in Face-to-Face Interaction Networks*
We have developed a wearable sensor `badge', called a sociometer, and used
it to analyze thousands of hours of face-to-face interactions among networks
of hundreds of people in common situations. These experiments demonstrate
that up to 40% of variation in human behavior can be attributed to
biological `honest signaling,' an unconscious, evolutionarily ancient
communication channel. We demonstrate that these honest signals play a
fundamental role in human decision making, and are predictive of outcomes in
social situations ranging from dating to sales to business management and

Noshir Contractor, Northwestern
*Digital Traces: An Exploratorium for Understanding and Enabling Social
Recent advances in digital technologies invite consideration of organizing
as a process that is accomplished by global, flexible, adaptive, and ad hoc
networks that can be created, maintained, dissolved, and reconstituted with
remarkable alacrity. These technologies also provide comprehensive digital
traces of social actions, interactions, and transactions. These data provide
an unprecedented Exploratorium to model the socio-technical motivations for
creating, maintaining, dissolving, and reconstituting knowledge and social
networks. Using examples from research in a wide range of activities such as
disaster response, digital media and learning, public health and massively
multiplayer online games (WoW - the World of Warcraft), Contractor will
present a visual-analytic framework that is being used to Discover,
Diagnose, and Design our social and knowledge networks.

Alessandro Vespignani, Indiana University
*Mobility Networks and Contagion Processes*
Transportation and mobility networks vary over many time and spatial scales
and span international, inter-cultural and linguistic boundaries. The
multi-scale nature and complexity of these networks are crucial features in
the understanding of epidemic, contagion and connectivity processes in both
the biological world and the ITC domain defined by the novel WiFi
technologies. The presentation will discuss the central statistical features
of these networks and the recently developed mathematical tools for the
study of weighted and time dependent complex networks. Finally, we will
review the impact of the complex features of mobility networks in the
definition and study of stylized and realistic contagion models.

David Lazer (
Director, Program on Networked Governance
Associate Professor of Public Policy
Harvard Kennedy School
Harvard University
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