Although network analysis has been around for nearly a century, the confluence of digitized data and cheap computer processing has given rise to a virtually limitless number of applications. For example, just to today I learned that the Google search algorithms rely on network analysis (measuring and calculating eigenvector and eigenvalues) to place the most salient web page on the top of the search list. Similarly, network analysis produced the insight that social isolation is more predictive of heart disease than cigarette smoking. (I need to read the the paper that produced this insight to ascertain if they chased down all the covariates of social isolation.) Of course, there are vehicles such as facebook and myspace, which are fostering new and powerful (and observable) social networks.
I started the course with three social networking projects: (1) lateral partnership movement among large law firms, (2) geographic connections between law firm branch offices, and (3) movement of law faculty between law schools (as I noted here, from 1928 to the present). But after one day, I am beginning to even more applications.
This is my second summer taking an methods class at ICPSR. From this limited frame of reference, I continue to be impressed with the organization, quality of instruction, seamless technology, and focus on practical application. I am looking forward to a very fruitful week.