August 27, 2011
In class yesterday, Ajay argued that the distinction between attributes and relations — so often made in intro-to-networks contexts — is not so clear. An attribute is a node-level variable, so centrality and any other node-level network concept is just another attribute. This is surely true, but it also a matter of semantics. Dan B prefers to use “attribute” in a more restricted way. An attribute is a characteristic of an actor themselves and not of their location in their social environment, such as their gender or attitude toward texting. In contrast, a node-level network property is a characteristic of a node’s position in the network, and can change if a tie is added or lost anywhere in the network. So gender and attitude are attributes while betweenness centrality is a node-level property. Joe said this distinction is problematic because network processes can cause attributes. For example, a person’s attitude is an attribute but it may have been formed as a result of contact with others with that attitude. But in my view the fact that attributes and network properties can cause each other is not relevant to the conceptual distinction between them; heat may cause fire but they are not the same thing.
The distinction here reminds me of the distinction between social networks and networks in general, which also came up in class. In my view, it is useful to restrict the term social network to just those cases where the nodes are entities, i.e., have agency. I can define a network in which the nodes are words and the ties indicate whether a given pair of words co-occurs in the same sentence in a given text. But I’d rather not call that a social network, and I certainly don’t want to apply social theory to it.
December 9, 2010
Take a look at these three sites.
September 6, 2010
A recent study of our College of Business & Economics found that “the administrative and financial operations of the College are unduly bureaucratic and paper intensive.”
The job of university administration is to give professors the illusion that all they have to do is content – solve the mysteries of the universe, develop students, etc. When a professor has to exchange a dozen emails to be reimbursed for one trip, or several dozen to reserve multiple summer classrooms for a workshop, or literally hundreds of emails to administer his grant, the illusion is broken and the professor is not productive. He becomes part of administration and in fact a very incompetent part.
Note that the passive this-comes-from-the-University response doesn’t help (nor the University’s this-comes-from-the-State response). Computer programmers have a concept called a wrapper: when a set of software tools has a very complicated interface, the programmer figures it out once and writes a wrapper with a very simple interface so that in his own code he is shielded from that complexity. Administrators at the College level should not be passing along (and, worse, adding to) the University’s complexity, but rather shielding faculty from the stuff that faculty are really not good at.
A simple example of the current mentality: I hired outside instructors to teach some of our workshops. They were asked to fill out several forms in order to get paid. I noticed that two of the forms were nearly identical. In fact, it was clear that one was a newer version of the other. When I asked about this, I was told “We know. But when we give both forms to Accounting it seems to work so we don’t mess with it.”
August 30, 2010
Harvard professor Marc Hauser was found guilty of “scientific misconduct”. Harvard doesn’t say exactly what that entails, but it is clear is that he and his assistants had the task of coding videotaped monkey behavior. This is a task which should always be given to someone who does not know what the study’s hypotheses are. It should also be noted that the scientific method is designed to protect a researcher from his/her unconscious biases. It does nothing to prevent people from simply faking it.
BTW, the guy’s field of study is morality.