Spatializing Social Networks

Radil, Flint, and Tita’s “Spatializing Social Networks: Using Social Network Analysis to Investigate Geographies of Rivalry, Territoriality, and Violence” (2010) demonstrates a promising integration of social network and spatial analysis in a study of gang violence occurrences and intergang rivalry in an LA neighbourhood with an above-average rate of violent crime.

The article highlights the fundamental interdependence of relationships and space, and thereby the fruitfulness of analyzing both “network space” and “geographic space” at the same time. While the article speculates as to why certain areas with particular network roles may experience higher rates of violence – interstitial or “brokerage” areas in particular – it stops short of musing on the potential predictive power that such analyses may one day hold.

Discussions of GIScience in 2015 inevitably seem to gravitate toward questions of power, which is well as we are at a moment of paradigmatic change in the amount of geolocated information that is collected on all digitally-active individuals on a regular basis. On a fundamental level, the article’s attempt at developing a synthesized geographic and social network analysis method points to a future where individuals’ and groups’ positions in network and geographic space can be studied simultaneously and automatically.

This in turn has considerable implications for questions of both collective and individual freedom. If Facebook, using data derived from the frequency of message exchanges, can predict a breakup between two romantically involved individuals, as CRAZY15 noted, what could it do with geolocational data synthesized with all of its existing (and future) network/relational indicators?


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