[gov3009-l] Van Alstyne on "Network Structure and Information Advantage"

Matt Blackwell mblackwell at iq.harvard.edu
Mon Sep 21 10:32:43 EDT 2009

Hello Applied Statistics Community,

Please join us this Wednesday, September 23rd, at the Applied
Statistics Workshop when we will be fortunate to have Marshall Van
Alstyne presenting "Network Structure and Information Advantage: The
Diversity--Bandwidth Tradeoff." Marshall is an Associate Professor at
Boston University in the Department of Management Information Systems
as well as Research Associate at MIT's Center for E-Business. Marshall
passed along the following abstract:

To get novel information, we propose that actors in brokerage
positions face a tradeoff between network diversity and communication
channel bandwidth. As the structural diversity of a network increases,
the bandwidth of communication channels in that network decreases,
creating countervailing effects on the receipt of novel information.
This argument is based on the observation that diverse networks are
typically made up of weaker ties, characterized by narrower
communication channels across which less diverse information is likely
to flow. The diversity-bandwidth tradeoff is moderated by (a) the
degree to which topics are uniformly or heterogeneously distributed
over the alters in a broker’s network, (b) the dimensionality of the
information in a broker’s network (whether the total number of topics
communicated by alters is large or small) and (c) the rate at which
the information possessed by a broker’s contacts refreshes or changes
over time. We test this theory by combining social network and
performance data with direct observation of information content
flowing through email channels at a medium sized executive recruiting
firm. These analyses unpack the mechanisms that enable information
advantages in networks and serve as a ‘proof-of-concept’ for using
email content data to analyze relationships among information flows,
networks, and social capital.

A copy of the paper is also available:

The Applied Statistics workshop meets each Wednesday in room K-354,
CGIS-Knafel (1737 Cambridge St). We start at 12 noon with a light
lunch, with presentations beginning around 12:15 and we usually wrap
up around 1:30 pm. We hope you can make it.


Matthew Blackwell
PhD Candidate
Institute for Quantitative Social Science
Department of Government
Harvard University
email: mblackwell at iq.harvard.edu
url: http://people.fas.harvard.edu/~blackwel/

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