I love studying networks. Looking into the deep structures of complex social systems can reveal important features and patterns of relations that have the power to open our minds and broaden our horizons.
As the quote from Albert-László Barabási above suggests, networks provide extraordinary insights and new ways of thinking about our society and the ordinary things that surround us. I am especially interested in social networks — the intricate patterns of relationships we are continuously shaping in our everyday lives, as we interact with people online and offline.
The interesting thing about visualising a network is that it allows you to take an abstract bird’s eye perspective to discover the surprising interconnections around you. Social network analysis can be used not only to better understand how social groups are structured and how ideas spread through these groups, but also to create strategies to influence human behaviour on a large scale, helping people to live better, healthier and more sustainable lives.
Mapping political polarisation and Internet populism on social media
The Internet has rewired civil society, propelling collective action to a new dimension of citizen autonomy. Yet it has also contributed to radicalisation and conflict. As part of a larger study on the future of digital democracy, I have analysed large amounts of social media data to understand how political polarisation on social media has fuelled the rise of populism with regard to the Brexit vote in the UK's recent EU referendum and its implications for future elections.
Analysing networked structures of online communities
Social network analysis provides a large toolkit of quantitative techniques that allow us to understand the structure of relationships of people in the context of their social groups. Using these tools, I have analysed the friendship relationships and conversational patterns of the World Economic Forum's Global Shapers Community, which spans across 450 hubs and brings together young people to work on social impact projects in their cities.
Exploring the evolution and spread of ideas in semantic networks
Ideas and concepts that are related to each other can be visualised in semantic networks that represent the degree of connection between these concepts, e.g. to understand the degree of relatedness of meanings associated with individuals, places or entities. Having extracted hashtags from Instagram activities around the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos 2016, I have looked at the way how the event was perceived and experienced by its participants and the general public.