“The weather sucked, but the conference ruled.”
That’s my first Sunbelt in a nutshell. For those of you who don’t know, Sunbelt is the biggest conference on Social Network Analysis (SNA). It’s organized by INSNA – the international network for SNA – and takes place at the US west coast, US east coast, and in Europe in a rotating annual modus. This year Hamburg had the honor to host Sunbelt (in its 33rd turn), and it was a very good choice. The program consisted of about 700 presentations and poster sessions during five days (including workshops it lasted even six days). In total, an estimated 1000 people attended Sunbelt.
I greatly enjoyed the interdisciplinarity of the conference and its very healthy mix of diverse people. Sunbelt is the first REALLY interdisciplinary conference I went to. You had physicists, computer scientists, sociologists, biologists, anthropologists, management people, statisticians, anthropologists, and folks from many other fields. A brief random sample of presentations proves this point:
- Price is what you Pay: The Origins of Value for Bitcoin, a Decentralized Electronic Currency
- A Transnational Approach to the Analysis of Personal Networks among Immigrant Populations in Catalonia (Spain)
- A Multidimensional Analysis of Face-to-Face Fleeting Interaction Antecedents. An RFID-based Case Study of an Incubator
- Social Networks of HIVpositive Women of Color, Social Support and Medication Adherence
So, in contrast to other, more focused conferences and events I learned a lot about disciplinary specifics. The more physics oriented presentations, for example, focused more on degree distributions, preferential attachment, and formalized modeling of real world problems. They relied heavily on observational data. The social science oriented guys and girls used smaller datasets and combined them with contextual information. Many presentations intermingled and included elements of both. Many presentations also featured people from different research traditions, which is definitely the way to go in the feature, especially with large scale projects.
(Find out more in the second part of this feature in a few days)