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Research_

Social network analysis

Analysing patterns in the way we connect

We are modelling and redesigning mechanisms of dynamic interactions between interpersonal or inter-organisational networks and their technological and natural environments.

Human relationships in a society form networks that can be measured and studied. In complex networks, the ability to function effectively arises not from individual components of that network, but from the way they interact. This means a complex network cannot be completely understood by examining each of its parts in isolation. The structure and function of such networks are tightly coupled: the structure evolves due to function, and function is constrained by structure.

Networks of friendship and advice within organisations can determine the success of teams and failure of mergers. The structure of interorganisational relationships and supply chains influences the resilience of the national economy to natural disasters and opportunities for industrial innovation. Social network analysis can reveal the mechanisms of dynamic interactions between webs of interpersonal or inter-organisational networks and their technological and natural environment. Analysing social networks can show where to intervene to improve organisational learning, coordination, performance and resilience to shocks.

Humans have always formed networks through their relationships before the internet and social networking sites such as Facebook existed. However new technologies are changing the way we live and work. It is still not fully understood how new transportation infrastructure reshapes people’s social networks and connect or fragment communities. How does information communication technology unite or isolate people? How do modern technology-enabled interpersonal and inter-organisational networks further affect the development, diffusion and adoption of new technologies?

Our research

We have been organising experimental interventions and social surveys in diverse communities and organisations across Australia, Africa, and Asia to empirically elucidate the role of social networks in contexts constrained by limited resources or environmental disasters. Using computer simulation and game theory, we explore the antecedents and consequences of social networks in a large range of empirical contexts. We are developing novel modelling methods for longitudinal data, ranging from stakeholder networks of small community-based organisations in remote rural communities to large organisations in Sydney.

Our expert: Dr Petr Matous

We are gathering primary data from communities in remote rural communities in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, and the Philippines to study the impacts of mobile phone technology and new transportation infrastructure on people’s networks, access to information, environmental management, and poverty. We conduct network interventions in these communities to identify causal relationships between networks and beneficial outcomes of interest.

Our expert: Dr Petr Matous

Our collaborator: Waseda University, Japan

In collaboration with our partners in Japan we are compiling and analysing a global network of interfirm interactions composed of millions of nodes and links. We combine these large-scale datasets from diverse public and private sources to study the effects of globalisation and the resilience of national economies to disasters and shocks propagated through supply chain networks.

Our expert: Associate Professor Julien Pollack

Our collaborator: City of Sydney

This research tests the efficacy of a network intervention in an organisational environment. We use social network analysis to map patterns of communication and collaboration within an organisation, identify gaps within the networks that need to be bridged, conduct an intervention to catalyse link creation between identified key pairs of individuals, and analyse the outcomes of the intervention.

Our expert: Dr Shahadat Uddin

Chronic diseases have become the leading cause of death in many countries. Following a network-based modelling approach, this project aims to understand the progression of chronic disease, and patients with chronic disease.

Our expert: Dr Ken Chung

The project explores the relationship between social networks of adolescents and its impact on sexual behaviour, and whether this relationship is moderated by online social media use. Modelling such networks on a longitudinal basis is important for understanding the properties of social networks and social media use that influence human behaviour in terms of trust, cooperation and the development of sexual agency. The social networks perspective is vital in informing how influence occurs within human and technological networks.