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Network theory and situation in Ukraine

First of all, I think that what is happening at the moment in Ukraine is horrible; in fact, it’s a tragedy not only for Ukrainian and Russian people, but also for the whole world. I still hope that the conflict can and will be solved without violence, in a peaceful manner.
Nevertheless, when I was following the story in the news, I understood that we could actually use the network theory principles to understand the conflict dynamics in southeastern regions of Ukraine.

So, in this post I would like to avoid politics, discussions about who’s right and who’s wrong, as well as calling names, and look at the situation from the positions of social networks scholars instead.  My small research is based on the information available on different Ukrainian and Russian web sites, discussions with friends in Ukraine, as well as on some reports in Western press.

As we know, the whole population of Earth can be described in terms of social networks. This enormous network consists of myriads of different more or less dense clusters connected with each other by strong or weak ties, as well as of structural holes.

The dense clusters are usually formed on the basis of homophily principle (i.e. some common attributes, such as connection, friendship and even language). Propinquity (often geographical) is another characteristic of network clusters. These properties of social networks help to develop a sense of “trust” among their members, as well as generate social support, cohesion and embeddedness, in other words, make people feel themselves  as a part of one group and support group decisions.  Read the rest of this entry

Is a small world getting even smaller?

In 1967 Stanley Milgram, an American social psychologist, conducted a series of experiments to study the nature of “small world” – a phenomenon produced by the overlap of personal social networks. For instance, he tried to find out the average path length for social networks of people in the US. He sent out 160 packages to randomly selected individuals in Kansas and asked them to deliver the package to a person living in Boston, Massachusetts. Since the senders didn’t know the package recipient personally, they were allowed to forward the package to somebody they knew on a first-name basis and who were likely to know the final recipient. The first package reached the recipient in Boston via only two people. However, on average the delivery chain consisted of 5 people. That’s how the theory of “6 degrees of separation” appeared. It suggests that anyone is 6 or fewer steps away from any other person in the world.

One possible path of a message in the “Small World” experiment by Stanley Milgram in 1967. Image credits: Ageev Andrew

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