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BRUGHMANS, T. (2012). Facebooking the past: a critical social network analysis approach for archaeology. In Chrysanthi, A., Flores, M. P., Papadopoulos, C. (eds), Thinking beyond the Tool: Archaeological Computing and the Interpretative Process.

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"Facebook currently has over 500 million active users, only six years after its launch in 2004. The social networking website's viral spread and its direct influence on the everyday lives of its users troubles some and intrigues others. It
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    Thinking beyond the Tool Archaeological computingand the interpretive process Edited by Angeliki ChrysanthiPatricia Murrieta FloresConstantinos Papadopoulos Commentary by Jeremy Huggett BAR International Series 23442012      Published   by   Archaeopress   Publishers   of    British   Archaeological   Reports   Gordon   House   276   Banbury   Road   Oxford   OX2   7ED   England   bar@archaeopress.com   www.archaeopress.com   BAR   S2344   Thinking   beyond    the   Tool:    Archaeological    computing   and    the   interpretive    process   ©   Archaeopress   and   the   individual   authors   2012   ISBN   978   1   4073   0927   9   Cover   design   idea   by   Javier   Pereda   Printed   in   England   by   4edge,   Hockley   All   BAR   titles   are   available   from:   Hadrian   Books   Ltd   122   Banbury   Road   Oxford   OX2   7BP   England   www.hadrianbooks.co.uk   The   current   BAR   catalogue   with   details   of    all   titles   in   print,   prices   and   means   of    payment   is   available   free   from   Hadrian   Books   or   may   be   downloaded   from   www.archaeopress.com      191  12 Facebooking the Past: a Critical Social Network Analysis Approach for Archaeology Tom BrughmansArchaeological Computing Research Group, University of Southampton Abstract Facebook currently has over 500 million active users, only six years after its launch in 2004. The social networkingwebsite’s viral spread and its direct influence on the everyday lives of its users troubles some and intrigues others. Itderives its strength in popularity and influence through its ability to provide a digital medium for social relationships.This paper is not about Facebook at all. Rather, through this analogy the strength of relationships between people becomes apparent most dramatically. Undoubtedly social relationships were as crucial to stimulating human actions inthe past as they are in the present. In fact, much of what we do as archaeologists aims at understanding suchrelationships. But how are they reflected in the material record? And do social network analysis techniques aimed atunderstanding such relationships help archaeologists understand past social relationships?This paper explores the assumptions and issues involved in applying a social network perspective in archaeology. Itargues that the nature of archaeological data makes its application in archaeology fundamentally different from that inthe social and behavioural sciences. As a first step to solving the identified issues it will suggest an integrated approachusing ego-networks, popular whole-network models, multiple networks and affiliation networks, in an analytical process that goes from method to phenomena and back again. Keywords: Social Network Analysis; Complex Systems; Social Relationships; Archaeological Data Critique; GraphTheory; Archaeological Networks. ________________________________________________________________________________________________  1. Introduction Does social network analysis allow archaeologists tounderstand past social relationships? The social network  perspective is based on the assumption that relationships between individuals shape their actions and it offers a setof theories and techniques for understanding human behaviour through relationships between individuals or communities and their affiliations. But can this perspective just be adopted from the social and behavioural sciences by archaeologists and be applied toarchaeological data? Does it succeed in explaining thefull complexity of past social relationships? This paper aims at surfacing fundamental issues with thearchaeological application of social network analysiswhich have been largely ignored in previous applications(Coward 2010; Graham 2006a; Graham 2006b; Graham2009; Isaksen 2008; Mizoguchi 2009; Munson and Macri2009; Terrell 2010a; Terrell 2010b). A number of suggestions will be made as a first step to overcomingthese issues.This paper purposefully only covers social network analysis. A general discussion of the archaeological potential of other network-based approaches has been published recently (Brughmans 2010). 2. Once upon a time… A short fiction abouta network and a politician 1   Once upon a time in Rome there was a man CalledMarcus Tullius Cicero. He was a great orator and one of the best lawyers in the city. In fact, only one other lawyer was said to be his superior, a man called QuintusHortensius Hortalus. As Cicero had achieved almost allhe could within the boundaries of his profession, hedecided to take up politics. It was his lifelong dream to become a Consul of Rome, so Cicero rose to thechallenge and signed himself up as a candidate for thecoming elections. Consular elections in Rome, as youmay know, worked according to a very familiar political principle: the most popular individual gets the job.Popularity, however, is not exempt from another and  1 This short fiction is very loosely based on RobertHarris’ novel Imperium (2006). It is adapted by theauthor and does not aim at being historically accurate inany way.  Thinking beyond the Tool: Archaeological Computing & the Interpretive Process 192   possibly even more familiar human principle: everythinghas a price. In Rome votes could be bought, so in the endthe richest person would be elected.Our friend Cicero might not have been counted amongthe wealthiest men in Rome and neither was he a member of the established political families. There was no doubtin his mind that the elections would be the mostdemanding struggle in his life so far. He did have oneadvantage however Cicero was quite a popular man. Infact, according to his Facebook profile (Figure 1) he hadover one thousand friends. Everyone even remotelyfamiliar with Facebook, or indeed the idea of friendship,will know that that is a large number of friends to have.Among those friends were a couple of very influentialand popular men like Titus Pomponius Atticus, whofrequented in many different social circles including thehighest echelons of Roman aristocracy. Cicero himself was mostly popular with the rural elite as well as withsome groups of the Roman plebs. Figure 1 Cicero’s Facebook profile.Cicero knew, however, that one thousand friends wouldnot be enough to ensure victory in the coming elections.If he was to have a real chance at actually becoming thenext consul of Rome, Cicero would need to distinguishhimself in some way from the other candidates. To dothis, Cicero did not invest too much effort in theelectorate of Rome, with its established politicalaffiliations and corruption scandals that would evendisgust the most inhumane of persian kings. Instead heturned his attention to the communities living to the northof the city, who could cast their vote in this year’selection for the very first time. By browsing throughsome public Facebook profiles Cicero found out thatthese new voters were very different from the Romans, asthey shared different Facebook pages and visited eachother’s farms in Farmville and so on. Cicero did not haveany friends from these communities himself, however, sohe asked some of his Facebook friends who lived closer to them to find out who among the new voters were themost popular and influential people. Cicero visited these people personally and added them as friends onFacebook. By doing this Cicero became part of a totallynew and isolated network within the electorate. Heexplored who were friends with whom and what topicsthey liked to discuss. Armed with this knowledge Cicerogave public talks in some of the most popular meeting places in the north about the issues his new Facebook friends cared about. Every day more and morenortherners added Cicero as a friend on Facebook, so thattheir support in the coming elections was as good asguaranteed.Cicero decided to spend the last few weeks before theelections in Rome, so his supporters there would not havethe feeling he abandoned them. But on his way back fromthe north he received a disturbing e-mail. Gaius AntoniusHybrida apparently removed Cicero as a friend onFacebook. This was a real blow for Cicero, becauseHybrida was one of the only aristocrats that publiclysupported Cicero. Indeed, not too long ago our friendsuccessfully defended Hybrida in court when he wasaccused for his inappropriate lifestyle. Cicero knew alltoo well that the man was an alcoholic and a brute, but anaristocratic alcoholic and a popular brute would still be avaluable ally for Cicero in the elections. Now Cicero was puzzled why he lost the little support he had from thearistocrats. He decided to send his secretary MarcusTullius Tiro to Rome ahead of him to find out why hewas betrayed by Hybrida. And sure enough the reliableTiro presented him with valuable information whenCicero arrived in Rome. Apparently four rich and mightyaristocrats, Marcus Licinius Crassus, Gaius Iulius Caesar,Lucius Sergius Catilina and Hybrida, had their eyes on becoming the most powerful men in the empire. Catilinaand Hybrida would be their candidates for the consulateand the four of them conspired against all their rivals. Asa consequence, Hybrida had to remove Cicero as a friendon Facebook. At hearing the news Cicero was devastated.If filthy rich people like Crassus conspired against him,his chances of becoming a consul of Rome were less thanthose of a crippled Phoenician basket weaver survivingthe ‘rabid wild animals matinee’ Sunday afternoons in theamphitheatre.Cicero knew, however, that the other aristocrats wouldnever allow for all the power in the empire to beconcentrated in the hands of the conspirators. As a lastresort he decided to turn to his old nemesis Hortensius for help, in a desperate attempt to still get some support fromthe established political families. At hearing the news of the conspiracy, Hortensius and his aristocratic friends pretended not to be very impressed and sent Cicero homewithout much hope of any support.The next day Cicero went to the elections a broken man,thinking the only thing he would win that day was publichumiliation. As the first results came in, his fears wereconfirmed. Time after time Catilina and Hybrida were thetop ranking candidates, with Cicero dangling somewhereat the bottom-end with the truly hopeless. Just whenCicero wanted to retire to his home and friends to savewhat was still left of his dignity, Hortensius appeared.His nemesis made the public statement of walking up toCicero, who was standing on a stage with the other candidates. Without averting his eyes from Cicero,Hortensius reached behind him and was handed his   Brughmans: Facebooking the Past: a Critical Social Network Analysis Approach for Archaeology   193  iPhone 4S by his personal slave. With this powerfuldevice he immediately wrote on his Twitter page ‘Cicerois a cool guy. Just what Rome needs! Vote for him’(Figure 2). As you may know, Twitter profiles are publicand virtually everyone in Rome read Hortensius’ messageimmediately. Many retweeted the message spreading theword almost instantaneously to nearly every member of the electorate. Then Hortensius removed his friendshipwith Hybrida and the other conspirators on Facebook, andmany of his friends did the same. As a result of Hortensius’ public action all the remaining citizens whocould still vote swarmed to support Cicero, turning thetables in his favour.And so it was that Cicero became consul of Rome as anew man without any family or financial support, butthanks to Facebook and Twitter. Figure 2 Hortensius’ Twitter profile announcing hissupport to Cicero. 3. Social network analysis and Cicero Undoubtedly this piece of fiction is not the story we wantto write in the history books. Yet by making the analogywith modern social media and exaggerating it to aridiculous extent we can imagine what the effects are of thinking about past social relationships through modernsocial network analysis terminology. There are a number of problems related to using social network analysistechniques for understanding social relationships in the past. Underlying these problems is a specificallyarchaeological issue of the nature of archaeological dataand how they reflect social relationships in the past.These issues will be discussed in more detail below. Butlet us first explore what social network analysis isthrough our example of Cicero’s rise to power.Social network analysis is used in the social and behavioural sciences as a set of theories, models andapplications that focus on the relationships among socialentities, and on the patterns and implications of theserelationships. As such it cannot be seen as a singlehomogeneous method as its name suggests. It is a distinctresearch perspective within the social and behaviouralsciences, however, because social network analysis is based on an assumption of the importance of relationships among interacting units (Wasserman andFaust 1994, 3-4). In addition, social network analysisapplications have a number of principles in common, assummarized by Wasserman and Faust (1994, 4): x   Actors and their actions are viewed asinterdependent rather than independent,autonomous units x   Relational ties (linkages) between actors arechannels for transfer or ‘flow’ of resources(either material or nonmaterial) x    Network models focusing on individuals viewthe network structural environment as providingopportunities for or constraints on individualaction x    Network models conceptualize structure (social,economic, political, and so forth) as lasting patterns of relations among actorsThese principles make the social network a useful perspective for understanding a diversity of researchquestions including diffusion and adoption of innovations(Rogers 1979; Valente 1995; Valente 2005), belief systems (Erickson 1988), markets (White 1981),exchange and power (Markovsky et al. 1988) andoccupational mobility (Breiger 1981). Its full potential for the archaeological discipline has still to be explored(Brughmans 2010) and the discussion here of issuessurrounding the archaeological use of social network analysis can be seen as a step in this direction.Social network analysis methods are rooted inmathematics (in particular graph theory (Barnes andHarary 1983; Harary 1969; Harary and Norman 1953;Harary et al. 1965), statistical and probability theory, andalgebraic models) from which techniques are adopted for identifying, examining and visualising patterns of relationships. Visualization of social data is a crucialcomponent of social network analysis, as it facilitates anintuitive understanding of network concepts (Freeman2005; Nooy et al. 2005, 14). A graph represents thestructure of a network of relationships, while a network consists of a graph and additional information on thevertices or the lines of the graph (Nooy et al. 2005, 6-7).It consists of a set of vertices (also called points or nodes)which represent the smallest units in the analysis, and aset of lines (or ties) between these vertices whichrepresent their relationships.Figures 3 to 6 are examples of social network visualisations. They show a minimal abstraction of theevolving fictitious Facebook friendships of the Romanelectorate as discussed in the short story above. In thesesocial networks individuals are represented by nodes andthe lines between them indicate friendship ties. On eachnetwork the location of Cicero is indicated. The nodes aregiven a number to clearly distinguish the different groupswithin the Roman electorate mentioned in the story. Thenew voters living north of Rome are the first group.Cicero and his closest friends are the second group, andhis supporters in Rome are the fifth. The aristocrats
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