Network Science

I am thrilled to share that I’ve been accepted into Northeastern’s Network Science Ph.D. program, and I will begin there full-time this fall.

As the website describes, this “is a new interdisciplinary program that provides the tools and concepts for understanding the structure and dynamics of networks across diverse domains, such as human behavior, socio-technical infrastructures, or biological agents.”

Networks can be seen and understood in a range of different settings. There’s the network of your Facebook friends, and the network of roads that weave through your town. Networks can be used to understand the spread of disease, the narrative of a story, the development of professional knowledge, or the process of a person’s moral reasoning.

I plan to apply Network Science specifically to political science questions. I’m interested in understanding how individuals interact through a network lens; how institutions interact; how individuals in institutions interact; how local, regional, national, and global levels interact –

I could go on.

I’ve been interested in these questions for a long time. I suppose one of the reasons I’ve pursued an interdisciplinary background – my Bachelor’s is in physics and Japanese, my Master’s in marketing – is because no single field seemed to answer all these questions. Or fully seek to address them.

Most disciplines seem to focus on just one way of looking at the world.

As an undergraduate, my Sociology 101 professor said that sociology is like trying to understand the world by looking down on a bustling street. A psychologist watches individuals, a sociologist watches the crowd.

I’m not sure whether others would agree with that assessment, but it always seemed an excellent argument for why psychologists and sociologists ought not to be siloed.

Both perspectives are crucial.

To me, network science is a step back from that level. It’s about seeking understanding both on an individual and collective level. Seeing how things fit together, how they are connected or not connected. Zooming in to a micro level and zooming out to a macro level.

One could easily argue that this approach is still too limiting. In her recent book, Forms, Caroline Levine uses the techniques of literary analysis to argue that the world can be understood through the colliding of different forms, namely: whole, rhythm, hierarchy, and network. So perhaps “networks” are but one of many forms which can help us understand the world.

But I, at least for the time being, think of all those forms in network terms and I’m eager to explore their colliding.

When you slam particles together, surprising things emerge. And when networks collide the result is no less surprising.

So this is a real thing that is happening. And I’m thrilled and humbled to have the opportunity to explore these questions.

And over the next five years, you all can come along for the ride.

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