2 January 2007
A follow up to my last posting: As I watched a stomach bug pass from my sister in law’s family to mine this holiday (and, perhaps, unknowingly, from us to others) I pondered (among other things) the systemic consequences of these relational rituals. Extended families are increasingly spatially dispersed, or, put another way, family boundaries are increasingly likely to cross-cut geographic boundaries. A possible consequence of this is that those times when families get together (e.g., over the holidays) are actually a manifestation of those “long-distance” ties that (a la Watts and Strogatz) play a critical role in speeding diffusion in systems. I would note, though, that the process is not a purely network-structural one, because it is not just the network structure but the scheduling of communication within that structure that is important.
An interesting question (perhaps answered?) is whether holidays, in turn, accelerate the spread of pathogens through the population. For example, is there an accelerated inter-regional spread of contagious diseases in January in the US? More generally, what are the systemic consequences of system-wide “scheduling” of communication in this fashion (as compared to, for example, a less synchronized but equally frequent level of communication)?
Posted by David Lazer at January 2, 2007 3:41 PM