Tag Archives: sociology

Expectation, epidemics and the social network

As the final master project, I set "social network" as one key word, not surprisingly. Then I need a context to apply to.

Actually I began to think about the topic from last Christmas. However, things were not going as well as I expected. A few months later I posted a notice on my chinese blog and was looking for someone to collaborate on this. Unfortunately, not that ideal either.

Now there is only one month left for me to work on it. Moreover, I also noticed that the 4th Chinese R conference is going to take place on the 28th of May. Well, since social network is one topic on the list, I really want to go back and see what's going on. Ideally, if I can finish the paper by 21th of May, and I can also find a funding for this trip, I would like to go back to China for a few days and give a speech... Well, then time is pretty tight, and I don't know even where I can ask for money. Does UPF or BGSE have a flyout funding? Any helpful informaion?

Well... a little off topic. This time, we found several great papers to follow. Before, I was only reading Jackson's book on social and economics networks, so I knew nothing about health. Interestingly, there are more people from sociology who are working on social network. Checked out some demographic journals,  tons of relevant papers appear.

However, although we have got enough idea now and it seems to have a possible way, still there are a lot of questions remained. As I wrote down a year before, my idea is concentrated around "information". In particular, here I want to try to stress the importance of information on expectation. From the context's view, when it comes to health, people tend to be either over optimistic or passive,  and as a result, the risk is either overestimated or underestimated. From the common sense, if people do not hold a nearly correct expectation, then for sure, their behaviors  will diverge from the optimal path. This time, I want to find out the way to model this process, and further, check the validity of the model by some empirical methods.

Maybe now, most challenges lie in the concern of time. Somehow luckily, I only have two courses to take this semester, which ensures more free time for me to work on a project. But still, I don't know how much I can finish. Things are going more and more stressful.

Among all issues related to (public) health, this time we may pick some epidemics, and a good choice should be HIV/AIDS. HIV has become such a hot topic in recent years, and as a sexual disease, it does have a lose link to social network, or specifically, sexual network, including the homosexual and heterosexual ones. Moreover, the risk perceptions of HIV/AIDS will also influence or even determine corresponding sexual behaviors - that's may be a reason why there are so many public targeted education in countries all around the world.

Hopefully I was not too optimistic this time (otherwise for me, I cannot follow the optimal path as well ^_^), and also, not too ambitious. Learning by doing, that's how we will benefit from this project.

Social behavior VS Individual behavior

Well, recently I'm focusing on an interesting model --social network and thinking about an old issue --social behavior. The social network model is really attractive (if it can be regarded as a model, or more exactly, a theory), especially for people like me who are wondering the traditional assumptions in classical economics while trying to borrow something from other subjects, like sociology.

Using complex network as a mathematical tool, the social network model includes so many factors that cannot be described in the past. Well, I should admit here that I haven't taken any related courses yet, and all I know about sociology are inherited from some unprofessional books. I should also admit that I was really attracted by behavior economics last winter, but until now had I started to "study" it in an academic way. Maybe the reasons are pretty simple: first, I was busying applying for postgraduate study positions last winter; second, there was not a good teacher who was able to teach this course; third, I have no idea about which book (or textbook) should be chosen as an introductory one.

Well, I need some time to make it clear in my mind that how social network works. However,  I've got a much easier question yet. That is, in traditional macroeconomic models, like the Lucas' island model, when we are trying to calculate the sum of all individual's save, at most time we simply add them together, (i.e. a*N, where N is the number of population).  However, I think at least the individual's save should be regarded as a stochastic variable (e.g follows a normal distribution, or Brownian movement), so the sum should also follow a normal distribution. Well, in econometrics we do not need to worry about this question. But I wonder whether it would be valuable if we can make this small change.

In the example above, I want to figure out that the micro-foundations for macroeconomics should be dug more deeply in order to persuade readers.  Borrowing some mature conclusions from other fields, this task shall be easier. Alternatively, economists should make an effort (maybe something can be found from data) to know more about the relationships between individual behavior and social behaviors, thereby establishing a proper model to describe them. Personally speaking, the study of social network may be helpful, since different from other social science, at least it has a mathematical model...And the diffusion of information can be easily introduced into macroeconomic models in this way...WoW!