Spatializing Social Networks

In Radil et al.’s Spatializing Social Networks (2010), the authors introduced an innovative method of integrating social network concepts of closeness and space with those of proximity and location called ‘structural equivalence’ (2010:308). A case study of rivalry and territoriality in the Hollenbeck Policing Area of Los Angeles was used to demonstrate how social network analysis can go beyond mapping of spatial networks (called ‘relational embeddedness’) of gangs in this area, but also the social positions of the gangs (also called the ‘structural position in network space’) within the Hollenbeck social network of gangs (2010:309).

Radil et al.’s publication achieves its goal of presenting to readers thoughtful (for 2010 at least) methods of incorporating the fundamental ideas behind sociological constructs of human interaction and social networks into spatial network analysis. I found the publication to have a thorough literature review of past forays into structural equivalence and concepts of spatial and social types of embeddedness, albeit difficult to understand at times, for readers unfamiliar with this geographic information science subdomain.

I found the Radil et al.’s Spatializing Social Networks to be an intriguing exercise in the harmonizing of social and geographical sciences. Most of all, I appreciated the authors obvious endeavour to use as much scientific terminology as possible (and very little tool-talk), in an effort to elevate geographic information science away from the simplistic ‘GIS is only a tool, not a science worthy of funding’ label.

The authors addressed a question that was raised in my mind as I was reading the article; that of temporal dynamism of spatial and social networks. I would be very interested to see how the CONCOR (convergence of iterated correlations) positional analysis would fair when a third, temporal dimension were to be added to the positional analysis. How would social constructs of space change over time? How would changes to the temporal resolution (i.e. scale) affect the magnitude of these changes? How could these results sway our understanding of Hollenbeck and the structural positions of gang network space?


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