What are Networks?

A network is any system that can be represented as a collection of things, people, or groups (called nodes) and their connections (called links). In political science, networks have been used to model the spread of news or gossip through a community, alliances between rebel groups, co-sponsorship of bills among legislators, and the flow of money in politics. The network above represents the spread of (mis)information about the Zika virus over Twitter, based on a dataset I collected of all tweets in the Western Hemisphere mentioning Zika during the height of the pandemic. The nodes are Twitter users and the links indicate who re-tweeted whom. The colors reveal densely-linked clusters of nodes which, my analysis shows, correspond primarily to labor unions, immigrant groups, political parties, and followers of popular politicians. Political networks such as these thus appear to be important conduits of information and fake news that shape public health crises.


Above: My Facebook network in 2015 (my own node is hidden for clarity). Purple nodes are college friends, dark green are high school classmates, light green are runners I've coached, blue are Boston friends, and yellow are campers and counselors from Seeds of Peace.