Patio: Meeting #6


The sixth meeting of The Patio took place on February 23, 2023. The meeting started with Dr. Marc Esteve del Valle introducing future Patio projects to participants, particularly its “Green Network” initiative (more information about this will follow later).

A presentation by Dr. Vincenz Frey – Assistant Professor at the Department of Sociology at the University of Groningen – followed, entitled “The emergence of exchange structures 2.0: An experimental study of trust and market-wide commitment formation”. In his presentation, Vincenz explained how trust problems affect exchange structures between trading parties and introduced attendees to the ways these issues had been studied historically. He then demonstrated how the emergence of technologically facilitated large-scale reputation systems changed trust problems’ consequences, and argued that dyadic commitments to sellers are no longer an outcome, as the presence of reputation systems leads buyers to frequent one or a few sellers while excluding many others.

Vincenz’s novel methodological approach, including a game-theoretic model and a laboratory experiment, sparked a conversation regarding the reasons behind several of his methodological choices, as well as the future of such research. Participants also linked Vincenz’s research findings to their own research topics and were quick to appreciate its societal relevance.

The slides of Vincenz’s presentation can be found here.

Patio: Meeting #5 

On October 13, Dr. Christina Prell, Associate Professor at the Faculty of Spatial Science at the University of Groningen, presented to The Patio members their research on social relationships of mutual understanding and environmental governance. Building on a conceptual framework linking participation to mutual understanding and social learning, their research made use of three waves of network and perceptions data gathered on stakeholders participating in the Integrated Coastal Resiliency Assessment (ICRA) project, a 2.5-yearlong project aimed at developing a collaborative research assessment on the vulnerabilities to climate change experienced by an island community located in the Chesapeake Bay, USA. Their study reveals that participation (measured as co-attendance in project events) leads to the formation of mutual understanding ties among stakeholders. 

Christina’s presentation triggered an interesting discussion about social networks and environmental topics and inspired several of the members of The Patio to further collaborate on these issues. 

Patio Meeting #4 and 1-Year Celebration

On April 28, we had our first (yes, first!) in-person meeting of the group. It was a very special moment. The meeting started with a brief presentation by Drs. Silvia Donker on the upcoming activities of The Patio, with an emphasis on the symposium we are organizing in July.

We then attended Dr. Silvia Majó-Vázquez’s —research fellow at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, University of Oxford— presentation on the study of the fragmentation of the online information ecosystem. Silvia presented an innovative methodological approach, the Backbone Structure of Audience Networks, to study online news consumption. She then demonstrated the usefulness of that approach to assessing, from a cross-country and a cross-platform perspective, the fragmentation of the information ecosystem. Silvia’s research paved the way for an interesting discussion with the participants on several aspects of her (and colleagues) methodological approach and on the social implications of the results of their investigations. The slides of Silvia’s presentation can be found here.

We concluded the meeting with a toast to celebrate the first year of The Patio!

Workshop on Qualitative Social Network Analysis

On November 30, Dr. Başak Bilecen, Associate Professor of Sociology and Rosalind Franklin Fellow at the University of Groningen, imparted a very interesting workshop on “Qualitative Social Network Analysis”. The workshop started with a theoretical overview of key social network analysis concepts often used in qualitative social network research.  After giving this overview, the participants explored different ways of using the software VennMaker to analyze qualitative social network data. 

The participants greatly enjoyed Başak’s workshop, and we are already working on the organization of a second edition. Stay tuned! 

The Patio: Meeting #3

The third meeting of The Patio took place on May 27, 2021. The meeting started with Drs. Silvia Donker sharing with the participants some thoughts about the workshop ‘Introduction to Social Network Analysis’ organized by The Patio and the Digital Humanities Centre (see the post below).  

We then listened to Drs. Ahmad Mir Mohammadi’s presentation entitled “Exploring the effects of electricity storage business models in the Netherlands: An exploratory agent-based modeling approach”. Ahmad’s presentation revolved around the use of agent-based (ABS) models to explore the effects of Energy Storage Systems (ESS) on the Dutch wholesale electricity market.

Ahmad’s interesting research findings sparked a heated debate on the validity of ABS models to explain the behavior of social actors. Whereas for some of the participants that seemed to be the case, for others the behavior of social actors’ is extremely difficult to model through the use of computational techniques.

Ahmad’s presentation can be found here.

Second Edition of the workshop “Introduction to Social Network Analysis” 

On May 27, 2021, The Patio and the Centre of Digital Humanities organized the workshop “Introduction to social network analysis”. Twenty seven participants, from a wide variety of disciplinary backgrounds (e.g History, Journalism, Business & Management and Sociology) and research interests attended the workshop. 

The workshop was divided into two parts, a theoretical introduction to social networks and a hands-on tutorial on social network analysis and visualizations. Dr. Marc Esteve Del Valle led the theoretical part. He went from introducing fundamental social network concepts to presenting the key elements of the design of a network research project. In doing so, Marc built on several examples of previous research in the field, from the study of networks in organizations to the analysis of animal social networks. 

The hands-on tutorial part was led by Drs. Silvia Donker. The tutorial started with a quick demonstration on how to use the social network visualisation software Gephi. After this demonstration, the participants were asked to create a network graph of a music artist of their choice and run several basic network centrality metrics to their networks. We saw some great network visualisations in the group.

Network_BeatlesRelated artist network of The Beatles, based on Spotify’s ‘Fans Also Like’ section, highlighting the clusters.*

All in all, the participants enjoyed the session a lot, as shown by their evaluations of the workshop. Indeed, all of them stated that they will recommend following the workshop to other colleagues. 

What did the participants say about the workshop? 

“I found the combination of theory and practice (hands-on), plus additional discussion useful. It was well prepared and the crystal clear hand-out helped a lot.”

“The workshop was really great!!”

“I very much appreciate the hands-on approach of Silvia’s part of the workshop. It was a great way to participate.”

*Acknowledgement: Spotify artist network data extraction tool by Bernard Rieder at

The Patio: Meeting #2

The second meeting of The Patio took place on January 14, 2021. The meeting started with Dr. Marc Esteve Del Valle sharing the activities The Patio plans for this 2021:

Spring 2021:

  • Workshop ‘Introduction to Social Network Analysis’ 
  • 3rd Ordinary Meeting

Fall/Winter 2021:

  • 4th Ordinary Meeting
  • SNA Symposium

Marc continued making three announcements on social networks research opportunities  involving some of the group members: a CfP of the section on Political Networks at the ECPR General Conference, a CfP at the Historical Networks Conference, and a CfP  from the Center of Information and Technology (CIT) on projects dealing with Virtual Reality and 3D technology

In what followed, 16 colleagues from several Faculties (Arts, Philosophy, Social Sciences, and Science and Engineering) took the floor -or to put it more accurately, the screen- and briefly introduced themselves and their research on social networks. These presentations gave everyone a better idea of who’s involved in this research group and revealed some potential research synergies between the members of The Patio.

Finally, Dr. Sean White presented his research on support paths between Brazilian entrepreneurs (see the slides of the presentation here). Sean’s theoretically sound and methodologically innovative research raised an interesting discussion among the participants about the conceptualization of homophily in social networks and the use of agent-based models to model individuals’ social behaviour.

We were very happy to see how the second meeting of The Patio fostered the emergence of a useful interdisciplinarity community of researchers on social networks and we are looking forward to the next meetings. 

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The Patio Launching Event 

On October 15 2020, the launching event of The Patio took place. In the event, we welcomed our Foundational Members and about 20 other attendees. Dr. Susan Aasman opened the gathering with some introductory remarks on how the initiative came into being, and with the ceremonial cutting of a ribbon declared The Patio officially launched. 

Then Dr. Marc Esteve Del Valle introduced The Patio: its goals, organization, members and strategy. He argued that The Patio aims to bring together researchers from various disciplinary backgrounds having an interest in social networks. To do so, The Patio facilitates a collegial environment where ideas about network projects are shared. In Marc’s words, “The Patio” is like a university’s courtyard, a meeting point, a space for reflection among colleagues. 

Next, Drs. Silvia Donker presented her research project on social networks of early modern natural philosophers. The aim of the overall project is to determine and explain how the process of normalisation embedded in teaching practices shaped the evolution of early modern natural philosophy. Her research poses particular challenges with regard to gappy data and limited information of historical actors. She is filling this void through the use of indirect ties, e.g. relations based on a shared environment. This social dimension will at a later stage of the project be combined with a semantic one. Silvia’s talk sparked a nice discussion among the attendees, with some great feedback and source-sharing. 

We were glad to see how the first meeting of The Patio triggered an interesting debate among many social network scholars and we expect its coming meetings to foster the creation of a truly interdisciplinary space of reflection on social networks. 

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