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Spaghetti monster survey (2)

It is Sunday. It is gloomy. It is rainy. Daylight saving time kicked in last night, meaning my blissful beauty sleep was cut short by an hour. On top of that, I dreamed I was at the hairdresser, always a dreadful experience in my opinion, and she fucked up my hair. 
   There. Glad I could get that off my chest. What a therapeutic effect it has to rant and rave about magnificently insignificant tribulations to no-one and anyone reading this in particular. I feel like such a star. I should probably also post a photo of myself french-kissing a dog on Twitter Miley Cyrus-wise (and that ain’t even nasty in her book). With photoshopped abs, obviously. We don’t do au naturel.

But enough about me. Another spaghetti monster interview came in last week! I would introduce him, but that would defeat the whole purpose of the interview. So here it goes:

Name: Tom Brughmans
Year of birth: 1985
Institution: Department of Computer and Information Science, University of Konstanz
Hogwarts house: I don’t believe in the house-system, the college-system, or any other institutionalized forms of social segregation.
What do SNA’ists got against Harry Potter?! I’m starting to think I should pick another field…
Field: Archaeology
Hobbies: I used to cook, play guitar, drink fancy green tea and hang out with other hippies, but then my PhD happened.
You just posted a picture of a Carib beer bottle under palm trees on a white sand beach on some tropical island. Work-related. Shut up.
Favorite book: 1984
How did you end up in the world of SNA?
Through a process that is very common but reveals I had no clue what network science was all about.
In 2008 I started an MA in archaeological computing. For my dissertation I knew I wanted to work with a database of Roman ceramics. I was particularly interested in figuring out how those pots were traded and transported around the Mediterranean. In a meeting with my advisors they suggested I should have a look at network science, because it was metaphorically close to the stuff I was interested in: trade and transport “networks”. A few months later my dissertation was finished, after what seemed to me then as the most epic mental struggle ever and what I know now to have been the intellectual equivalent of planting a seed on the edge of a receding rainforest scheduled to become a car park and walking away feeling pretty damn good about myself. Two things became clear from the dissertation experience though: my archaeological use of network science was useless, and so was everyone else’s. It took me two years to convince a funding body that this realization was worth spending loads of money on.
Shhh, dammit. They might be listening!
What’s your latest research about?
The study of changes in settlement patterns in the Caribbean just before and just after European contact, and in particular to evaluate whether what could be seen from certain places had anything to do with it. In practice, I walk around in my swimming shorts on the beaches of the Lesser Antilles taking pictures.
What’s the silliest thing you’ve applied SNA to?
Who talked after whom during a meeting (it was a very boring meeting). Nodes are individuals, arcs represent X is followed by Y, width of arcs represents the number of times X was followed by Y. The left side of the picture is the entire discussion. The right side is the same but without our professor. This graph made me think of those basketball graphs, that track who passes to whom. When you look at a graph of an entire match you can identify players with different roles. In particular, the one at the back (no, I’m not into basketball so I don’t know what they’re called) is a sort of redistributor, taking the ball to keep it safe and throwing it to the ones in front (don’t know what they’re called either, get off my back!) to try attacks on different fronts. I think our professor plays a similar role in our discussions: we ask him what he thinks of our uninformed ramblings and then he bounces the ball back hard with unforgiving logic and clarity to an unsuspecting colleague, who continues with desperation the uninformed ramblings.

Favorite centrality measure & why:
I really don’t care enough to have a favourite existing measure. But I can make one up! The nasty narcissist’s ego centrality! It captures the feeling of self-importance of undeservingly rich males. The result of this metric is always one million.
How about Hitler’s?
Must-read SNA-related article/book (feel free to cite yourself):
Brandes, U., Robins, G., McCranie, A., & Wasserman, S. (2013). What is network science? Network Science, 1/01: 1–15. DOI: 10.1017/nws.2013.2
The only paper I ever read that managed to explain to me why network science allows us to do things we could not do before and why it matters. I get allergic reactions to papers that argue network science is useful based on metaphors or fancy data visualisations. This paper provided me with the only argument worth reading my PhD for (so I guess it’s more fruitful to read this paper, add the word ‘in archaeology’ behind every occurrence of the words ‘network science’, and not bother with my PhD).
(disclaimer: Ulrik Brandes is my current employer but I can definitely confirm that he is not at this very moment putting a gun to my head and forcing me to cite his work …)
Blink if I need to call James Bond to save you. 
Ok, was that a code-blink, or were you just actually blinking in an unconditioned-response way?
Message to beginning SNA’ists?
Learn no more of network science than the bare minimum to allow you to evaluate whether you really need it. If this is not the case, stop or change your research to fit the method you fancy (bad science but we all do it). However, if you do need network science, don’t ever stop trying to understand what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and how you could do it better.
Anyone interested in my bowl movements?

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