Kieran Healy on Paul Revere and Social Networke Analysis
London, 1772. I have been asked by my superiors to give a brief demonstration of the surprising effectiveness of even the simplest techniques of the newfangled Social Networke Analysis in the pursuit of those who would seek to undermine the liberty enjoyed by His Majesty’s subjects. This is in connection with the discussion of the role of “metadata” in certain recent events and the assurances of various respectable parties that the government was merely “sifting through this so-called metadata” and that the “information acquired does not include the content of any communications."
I cannot show you the whole Person by Person matrix, because I would have to kill you. I jest, I jest! It is just because it is rather large. But here is a little snippet of it. At this point in the 18th century, a 254x254 matrix is what we call Bigge Data. I have an upcoming EDWARDx talk about it. You should come.
I won't spoil the ending, but Dr. Healy's explication is masterful, engaging important civil liberties questions while bestowing some serious geek cred to social network analysis. A good methods piece both intrigues and inspires, inviting the reader to pick up some new tools while reducing the real or imagined barriers to doing so. Why'd he write it? From today's update:
I wanted to give non-specialists a sense of how the structural analysis of what’s being called “metadata” works, and to show in a fun but hopefully telling way how much you can get out of that approach. So I tried to emphasize that I was using one of the earliest, and (in retrospect) most basic methods we have, but one that still has the capacity to surprise people unfamiliar with SNA.