Sniffing out Paul Revere with basic social network analysis

Jun 13, 2013

It’s just metadata. What can you do with that? Kieran Healy, a sociology professor at Duke University, shows what you can do, with just some basic social network analysis. Using metadata from Paul Revere’s Ride on the groups that people belonged to, Healy sniffs out Paul Revere as a main target. Bonus points for writing the summary from the point of a view of an 18th century analyst.

What a nice picture! The analytical engine has arranged everyone neatly, picking out clusters of individuals and also showing both peripheral individuals and—more intriguingly—people who seem to bridge various groups in ways that might perhaps be relevant to national security. Look at that person right in the middle there. Zoom in if you wish. He seems to bridge several groups in an unusual (though perhaps not unique) way. His name is Paul Revere.

You can grab the R code and dataset on github, too, if you want to follow along.

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