Guesthouse, University of Bremen
Auf dem Teerhof 58
28199 Bremen
15.10.: 1:30 - 6 p.m. and 16.10.: 9 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.
Contact Person:
Lecture Series:
Method Lectures of the Bridge Professorship
WiSe 2015/16

Ulrik Brandes holds a Chair of Information Science at the University of Konstanz. Ulrik is a leading scholar in Social Network Analysis. His research interests are centered on graph drawing and information visualization, efficient graph algorithms and experimental algorithms. He is one of the editors of "Network Science" (Cambridge University Press) and serves as board member of the International Network for Social Network Analysis (INSNA). Currently he is conducting a Reinhart Koselleck project on the algorithmic foundations of network theory, a project in cooperation with the social sciences.

The positional approach is a recent methodological innovation intended to narrow the gap between substantive theory and mathematical analysis of social networks. Breaking down current methods into meaningful and manageable decision steps it explicates hitherto tacit assumptions, suggests means to overcome them, and smoothly generalizes approaches to valued, multiplex, multilevel, and temporal data. It also facilitates the incorporation of more qualitative observations and produces more nuanced results.

All of this is achieved by defining the network position of an actor as the aggregate of direct and indirect relationships and attributes. Starting from the key concept of position, state-of-the-art methods of analysis turn out to be special cases of positional comparisons and evaluation. The characterization of actors by their positions can be thought of as a form of conjoint measurement, and exploits a richer array of non-quantitative mathematical tools.

Methodologically, this allows to separate the substantive argumentation of what defines a position from the formal analysis of the network it is embedded in. An important benefit of the genericity of the positional approach is that it unifies existing methods and at the same time suggests many new methods obtained from alternative instantiations. Moreover, it facilitates basic research by identifying relevant problems without requiring domain-specific background knowledge.

The workshop is an introduction to the positional approach starting from first principles. It is centered around use cases that cover a broad range of social network application domains. We will discuss the relative utility of positional and current state-of-the-art approaches and identify how method selection can be better informed by substantive theory. In a special closing session, we will discuss positional approaches to participant-contributed research problems.