Radil, Flint and Tita (2010): Spatializing Social Networks: Using Social Network Analysis to Investigate Geographies of Gang Rivalry, Territoriality, and Violence in Los Angeles

This article by Radil, Flint and Tita (2010), examines the geographies of gang violence, territoriality and rivalry in Hollenbeck, Los Angeles, by spatializing social networks.

One thing that I found engaging in the article is the notion of embeddedness, and in particular the spatiality of embeddedness. Embeddedness was not something I ever considered in GIS because it fell beyond the scope of my use, mainly as a tool in physical geography (I probably just forgot ever learning about it). This highlights, once again, the importance of GISCience courses and theory being taught to GISystems users.

There are two types of embededdness considered in the article: “relative location in geographic space, and structural position in network space” (1). These distinctions are then based on physical embeddedness in geographical space and a theoretical embeddedness in society/culture. This got me thinking about whether or not it truly is possible to be embedded in one and not the other: can a distinction truly be made between the two? Can I be physically embedded in a landscape, without being structurally embedded in it? In other words, can I live somewhere and remain outside of the sociopolitical and economic structures of the place? I would argue that this is not possible, because structures (social, economic, political , etc…) exist due to relations between things (people, objects, phenomena, etc…) and relations form based on proximity (Tobler’s first law of geography). I wonder then, what some of the effects of the gangs are in terms of physicality, and also in terms of the social networks that extend beyond the gangs. If the gangs are embedded in space and the space is embedded in the gangs, how does it affect those that are not in the gangs? Moreover, how does it affect some of the physical attributes of Hellebeck like form and function of places? Granted, this was not the purpose of the article, but I think that it would have been really helpful in order to truly explore the ‘geography’ of gangs.

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