Friday, 30 November 2012

The Global Super-Entity - The Economic Ruling Class of The World

A small, tightly woven network of companies, mostly banks, wields disproportionate control over the global economy, according to a new study. The findings shed some light on the intimate ways 21st century capitalism works — and how those functions can undermine the entire system.

A trio of systems theorists at ETH Zurich examined the world’s 43,060 transnational corporations and studied their share ownerships, searching for commonalities that tie the companies together. They worked with techniques used to study complex systems in nature to construct a model of which companies controlled which other companies, and through which networks.

Ultimately, Stefania Vitali, James Glattfelder and Stefano Battiston identified a core of 1,318 companies with interwoven ownerships, each with ties to two or more other companies. They were connected to an average of 20 each, the researchers found. The network forms a “giant bow-tie structure,” with a small, tight knot in the middle and connections spanning outward in an increasingly nebulous pattern. The knot is very small and dense compared to the other sections, and the researchers dubbed it an economic “super-entity.” It is also very closely held — about three-quarters of the ownership remains in the hands of the core itself.

While the authors note that there’s no example of this core intentionally acting as a bloc — in other words, there’s no vast economic conspiracy — that doesn’t mean it can’t act that way. “Globally, top holders are at least in the position to exert considerable control, either formally (e.g., voting in shareholder and board meetings) or via informal negotiations,” they write.
“Nearly [40 percent] of the control over the economic value of TNCs in the world is held, via a complicated web of ownership relations, by a group of 147 TNCs in the core, which has almost full control over itself,” the authors explain. Unsurprisingly, three-quarters of these companies are banks.
The Core of the Network

They add that domestic anti-trade strictures prevent the core from acting as some kind of cash cartel.
Concentrated power in the hands of a few has clear implications for global financial stability — which everyone already knows, given what the world went through starting in 2008. But this study puts it in empirical terms. Further studies that build upon the assumptions made in this paper could potentially help policymakers and economists studying ways to stabilize financial markets.

The Top 20 Corporation in the Core of the Network:

4. AXA
17. Natixis

Source: New Scientist

Friday, 9 November 2012

The Dark Side of Hospitals

After virtual threats and food poisoning, a new study takes a closer look at viruses in hospitals.

Hospitals shouldn’t make you sicker. But plenty of people acquire illnesses while hospitalized—in some countries, such so-called nosocomial infections afflict more than 10 percent of patients.

Jack Nicholson's life might not be the only one threatened by a nurse.
To investigate transmission pathways, European researchers of the SocioPatterns collaboration fitted 119 people in a ward of the Bambino Gesù Children's Hospital with radio-frequency identification (RFID) badges. The tags registered face-to-face interactions—and the potential spreading of airborne pathogens.

The map.

Nurses interacted with the widest variety of individuals across the ward—patients, doctors, other nurses, and so on. The study indicates that nurses should take priority in strategies for preventing or controlling hospital outbreaks.

Different groups of the hospital.
The scientific method used in the analysis was developed in the MIT Media Lab. The sociometric badges aim to eliminate behavioral changes that occure because they are participating in an experiment. The devices are capable of  capturing face-to-face interactions, extracting social signals from speech and body movement and can also measure proximity and location of the users. The invention was listed as on of the top 10 innovations by the Harvard Business Review.

Check out the interactive map on Scientific American! For more about the method, we recommend the company's page.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Can Social Media Become the Saviour of Democracy ?

An article in Nature claims to have proven the  direct impact of  social media on political activity. Researchers at the University of Carolina along with people from Facebook run a gigantic experiment.

On Nov. 2, 2010, the day of the nationwide Congressional elections, nearly every Facebook member who signed on — 61 million in all — received a nonpartisan “get out the vote” message at the top of the site’s news feed. It included a reminder that “today is Election Day”; a link to local polling places; an option to click an “I Voted” button, with a counter displaying the total number of Facebook users who had reported voting; and as many as six pictures of the member’s friends who had reported voting. The results: 340,000 additional votes nationwide! Pretty amazing, but how can we be sure these people would not have voted by themselves?

Two randomly chosen control groups, of 600,000 Facebook members each, did not receive the pictures. One group received just the “get out the vote” message; the other received no voting message at all.By examining public voter rolls, the researchers were able to compare actual turnout among the groups. They determined that the message showing friends who had voted was directly responsible for 60,000 more votes nationwide and indirectly responsible for 280,000 that were spurred by friends of friends — what they called “social contagion” effect.

Significantly if not surprisingly, the voting study showed that patterns of influence were much more likely to be demonstrated among close friends, suggesting that “strong ties” in cyberspace are more likely than “weak ties” to influence behavior. It also found an indirect impact from the messages: friends of friends were influenced as well.

Fun fact, they also discovered that about 4 percent of those who claimed they had voted were not telling the truth.Because only about 1 percent of Facebook users openly state their political orientation, the researchers said they could not determine whether political leanings had any influence on social networking and voting behavior.Past studies have shown that a variety of methods for mobilizing potential voters have a disappointing effect. Knocking on doors is the most effective technique; e-mail is one of the least.

Monday, 5 November 2012

A New Frontier for Organizational Network Analysis

Find out more about ONA online.

The Key Opinion Leaders of Music

The evidence that ideas and fashions spread through society like viruses or like wildfire is compelling. Numerous studies have examined the networks in which this spread takes place and with increasingly large data sets to work with, researchers have become increasingly confident in their network-centric view of the world. These tools are teasing apart the large scale behaviour of humanity in ever increasing resolution. Our frequent viewers are well aware of the fact, the popculture is a futile ground for network analysis, whether it comes to movies, comics or music. is interesting because it publishes lists of the most listened to artists divided geographically. So Lee and Cunningham have studied the way these charts vary in time and looked to see whether some cities consistently lead others in terms of listening habits. The researchers studied the data for 200 cities around the world dating back to 2003. This is compiled from some 60 billion pieces of data the site collects from its users. 

Edges represent cities following.

The results are interesting. They show that certain cities appear to lead others for various genres of music. For example, Montreal seems to lead North American in indie music listening habits and the leader for hip hop is Atlanta. In Europe, Paris leads for indie music whereas Oslo leads for music as a whole. 

It's easy to imagine that the biggest cities ought to be those furthest ahead of the curve because they have biggest populations from which new and interesting bands can emerge. That doesn't seem to be the case in this data--big cities such as New York, LA and London do not lead. "We find only weak support for this hypothesis," say Lee and Cunningham. 

That may cause some alarm bells to ring. An interesting body of work has recently suggested that big cities benefit disproportionally for their size since qualities such as efficiency, productivity and innovation all scale super linearly with population. 

The ultimate test, of course, is whether their discovery has any predictive value. For example, could they predict how listening habits will change in the near future? "We have not yet demonstrated that our models have this predictive power, although we plan to attempt this validation in future work," they say.

Hooked already? Read the whole article on Cornell University's Library page.