Spatializing Social Networks

The subject of social network analysis is fascinating; however, I found the article by Radil, Flint and Tita (2010) to be somewhat difficult reading. The article was full of jargon, such as “spatializing” “spatialities” “betweenness” “positional analysis” and the authors often needed to translate themselves by writing “in other words…” Nevertheless, the topic and the application of it to rival gangs in Hollenbeck were very interesting. The authors discuss the idea of embeddedness: how social behavior is produced by and inextricably connected to space, and use spatial statistics such as Moran’s I to examine the social networks and splits between gangs. The example of gang territory is an excellent one, because turf and territory have a significant geographical element that manifests itself in gang rivalries and behavior.

While reading the article, I became interested other applications of social network analysis. I found myself thinking, “How could GIS be used to consider the spatial networks of other things more positive than gang territory?” For example, one could explore the spatiality of activist social networks or a network analysis of the use of health centers. Social media use is also a relevant example because it is, of course, social, but it also has an important spatial element. One could use a spatial network analysis to learn how information is distributed through social media across space and time.

This article explores some of the issues and recurring questions of GIScience. For example, the authors struggle to incorporate both space and time in their analysis, as they address that their static model doesn’t address the dynamism of constantly-changing social networks. The authors also address the multi-disciplinary aspect of GIScience, by encouraging that the results they found be strengthened by other ways of knowing from other disciplines.




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