Social Network Analysis

| last update: 2017-08-19

Use of Social Network Analysis in Security Studies

In short terms Social Network Analysis (SNA) can be characterized as a scientific method to analyze networks of people. Such an analysis can reveal the overall structure of the network, the flow of information inside of it or who has which level of influence within this group.

Such insights can be used to identify leaders of a group or moral authorities within it even then it is not clear to outsiders who has which role. Therefore SNA is seen as an important tool in Counterterrorism- and Anti-Crime-Operations as it helps to destroy terrorist cells and criminal networks.

Although Network Analysis is useful it depends on the availability of data. If the wrong kind or an insufficient amount of data is used as a base for analysis SNA can paint a wrong picture.

Example visualization of a social network. Node size and color depend on its degree. Therefore it is easy to identify central actors.
Example visualization of a social network. Node size and color depend on its degree. Therefore it is easy to identify central actors.

SNA Software

Although gephi and cytoscape can store nodes and edges of a graph it might be wise to use a real database as a backend. One loses the ability to create an edge between the nodes just by clicking on them, but given big graphs this is negligible as it is impractical. A database backend allows filtering using SQL Syntax. Besides filtering can be sped up by indexing or using a genuine graph database.

  • Gephi
    Cross-Platform (Java based) / Open Source Licence (CDDL + GNU GPL 3) / GUI.
    Extensive features for network visualization and analysis like a timeline.
  • Cytoscape
    Cross-Platform (Java based) / Open Source (LGPL) / GUI
    Extensive features for network visualization and analysis. The graphical editor could use shortcuts. Gephi makes better looking graphs.
  • igraph
    Available as a C library, a R package or as a python extension module. Igraph can handle large graphs, has some basic analysis functions and is very good documented.
  • Graphviz
    A very simple graph drawing tool. No real analysis functions. However quite fast.
  • IBM Analyst's Notebook
    Sophisticated analysis software marketed to government agencies and businesses.
  • InfoZoom
  • Visone
  • Ucinet
  • Pajek

development probably discontinued:

  • GUESS "Graph Exploration System"
  • Java Universal Network/Graph Framework (JUNG)
    (As of August 2017 the last update was January 2010.)
  • Social Network Image Animator (SoNIA)
    (As of August 2017 the last update seems have to been in the year 2010.)

Methodology of Network Analysis

Research

Literature

Research Institutions