Thursday, 7 May 2009

Poetry Next The Sea, Roadside Rabbits, Social Networks and Flu

I am off to Wells in Norfolk tomorrow to read at the Poetry-Next-The–Sea Festival with Dean Parkin on the Sunday
but I am hoping to enjoy a quick stroll along Holkham beach, the weather forecast says it might be a bit breezy , which might translate to gale force on the Norfolk coast. Last year I had the cobwebs blown out of me courtesy of a brisk walk through the marshes, I think I rely on the sea wind factor there to clear all the synaptic pathways. Wind , in the fens, is of course a thing of beauty it hurtles in from the Urals and manages to twist trees into convoluted shapes that usual pass for a petrified Golem if you happen to come across them on a moonlit night walk.

I have taken to walking at night, it has its own pleasures not least of which are rabbits. Just off the busy A14 there are grass verges that at night seems to contain the full cast of Watership Down plus a very healthy fan base. They eat oblivious to the traffic and I can’t help thinking that the lead content in the grass they seem to enjoy may actually be dulling their brains such that they are not actually oblivious, more totally spaced out. I expect someone has done some research somewhere on the effects of dual carriageway feeding on the lead levels in rabbits. I can’t believe someone with bio credentials hasn’t driven by the motorway verge rabbits and thought, ‘They look like very stupid rabbits could this be why they are happy eating beside a motorway or is the reverse true; because they eat exhaust fume polluted grass has that made them stupid enough to remain here’. I once lived next to a man who used to place his son in his baby car seat on the driveway next to him as he constantly tinkered with and revved up his car, if car fumes can make rabbits more stupid what could it do to children? Of course this may have been an early instance of father/son bonding and the child may have grown up to be a mechanical genius. If Mozart’s father could teach his son to play the piano from three years old why shouldn’t another father introduce his toddler to the delights of the internal combustion engine and the smell of exhaust?

I watched a fascinating programme about the new science/maths of networking which makes sense of the six degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon Game. Apparently we are nearly all only six people away from every one else. A man has studied the maths of the internet links and that too proves this but also shows that some points are important hubs and connect to more things. They are using this theory to draw up models of how disease or computer virus’ can spread. Once enough hub type people or places are infected then it’s good night Vienna for stopping the spread of something. I once did one of those network things on Facebook which connects up all the people you have accepted as friends. The hub analogy seemed to hold for that, some people knew only two or three others whereas others were positively overwhelmed with connections. Hub people are influential people, I was not a hub person thank god, the responsibility would weigh too heavy, all those people to connect and weave together.
Here is the technical terms used in social network analysis, I have just substituted the word person for the word node( Ithink that is maths speak for a point but I could stand correctedon that by anyone out there with A level maths). I found it strangely compulsive reading once I had done that mind trick and I kept applying it to all my friends, acquaintances and those ‘I once met them briefly at a party ten years ago’ people.

The extent to which a person lies between other people in the network. This measure takes into account the connectivity of the person's neighbors, giving a higher value for people who bridge clusters. The measure reflects the number of people who a person is connecting indirectly through their direct links.

An edge is said to be a bridge if deleting it would cause its endpoints to lie in different places.

This measure gives a rough indication of the social power of a person based on how well they "connect" the network. "Betweenness", "Closeness", and "Degree" are all measures of centrality.

The difference between the number of links for each person divided by maximum possible sum of differences. A centralised network will have many of its links dispersed around one or a few people, while a decentralized network is one in which there is little variation between the number of links each person possesses.

The degree an individual is near all other individuals in a network (directly or indirectly). It reflects the ability to access information through the grapevine of network members. Thus, closeness is the inverse of the sum of the shortest distances between each individual and every other person in the network.

Clustering coefficient
A measure of the likelihood that two associates of a person are associates themselves. A higher clustering coefficient indicates a greater 'cliquishness'.

The degree to which people are connected directly to each other by cohesive bonds. Groups are identified as ‘cliques’ if every individual is directly tied to every other individual, ‘social circles’ if there is less stringency of direct contact, which is imprecise, or as structurally cohesive blocks if precision is wanted.[18]

The count of the number of ties to other people in the network. This may also be known as the "geodesic distance"..

(Individual-level) Density
The degree a respondent's ties know one another/ proportion of ties among an individual's nominees. Network or global-level density is the proportion of ties in a network relative to the total number possible (sparse versus dense networks).

Flow betweenness centrality
The degree that a person contributes to the sum of maximum flow between all pairs of people (but not that person).

Eigenvector centrality
A measure of the importance of a person in a network. It assigns relative scores to all people in the network based on the principle that connections to people having a high score contribute more to the score of the person in question.

Local Bridge
An edge is a local bridge if its endpoints share no common neighbors. Unlike a bridge, a local bridge is contained in a cycle.

Path Length
The distances between pairs of people in the network. Average path-length is the average of these distances between all pairs of people.

Prestige is the term used to describe a person’s centrality. "Degree Prestige", "Proximity Prestige", and "Status Prestige" are all measures of Prestige.

The degree an individual’s network reaches out into the network and provides novel information and influence.

The degree any member of a network can reach other members of the network.

Structural cohesion
The minimum number of members who, if removed from a group, would disconnect the group.

Structural equivalence
Refers to the extent to which people have a common set of linkages to other people in the system. The people don’t need to have any ties to each other to be structurally equivalent.

Structural hole
Static holes that can be strategically filled by connecting one or more links to link together other points. Linked to ideas of social capital: if you link to two people who are not linked you can control their communication.

No wonder I’m no good at networking if this is what is involved but I suppose if pushed I would admit to wanting to be involved in a network that has a bit of ‘radiality’ and I’d like to contribute to the flow of inbetweenness centrality now and then.

There must be a found poem somewhere in the above.

Social networking also means that once the swine flu hits someone who is a hub or of high ‘Prestige’ (in the social networking analysis sense) then we might as well throw away the masks and climb in bed together, especially all those group with a high social cohesion ( or cliques). A poetry festival should be a fertile ground for flu all that cheek kissing, hugging and general networking.

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