The problem of popular, collectively organized political action has long had a grip on the attention of historians, sociologists and political scientists. The British campaign for the abolition of the slave trade (1788-1807) is perhaps the first of such cases. Across social science disciplines that engage with this problem, there is now a consensus that the patterning of social relations has a bearing on the level of mobilization. Empirical studies in the structuralist tradition take up smaller-scale problems and rarely ask the question of what kinds of structures are able to scale up and sustain mobilization in general. Abstract simulation work has the potential to address this issue, but thus far it has considered only highly idealized social structures. This research introduces an innovative methodology - exponential random graph modeling (ERGM) for ego-centrically sampled data - as a solution to move empirical investigations grounded in data and simulation closer. These models have been developed to study the spread of infectious diseases, and thus they lend themselves well for the study of British abolition because (1) it is easy to see the parallel (though not equivalence) between the diffusion of diseases and ideas; and (2) the data problems of hard to find contemporary populations that often confront infectious disease modelers are strikingly similar to those that historical sociologists face. Primary source documents for a case study of Manchester which then is embedded at the national scale in England provide the data for these models to: (1) answer the question of why abolitionist mobilization was successful at these different scales, (2) provide a framework to study other mobilization events in similar historical contexts, and (3) bring ERGMs, a new analytic tool, into the mainstream sociological research on mobilization.
Dissertation projects always seem to be "in progress". By now however, I am working towards two empirical chapters. One that is a case-study of Manchester, and another that considers the movement across Britain. I organized a lot of primary source documents into databases. As soon as I am sending out these chapters for publication I will upload these data here for public use.
Ryan Hagen and I took Research Design together where we read a series of papers on lynching. We both got hooked on the idea to use averted lynching events as counterfactuals to completed ones to bring the theories of mob formation to a better test. Ryan started the data collection for the project in 2011 showing that data on averted lynching events is indeed collectable, and then we both ended up reading and coding thousands of news reports for the period of 1880-1930 from Georgia, Mississippi and North Carolina. Our first paper came out in Social Forces in 2013. The second paper that focuses on state interventions is currently under review.
This is something I recently got into with Byungkyu Lee (Bk). We were inspired by a recent simulation-based paper that links social consolidation to diffusion outcomes and started to figure out possible research designs to test this idea empirically. We stumbled upon this data on the diffusion of microfinance in contemporary India, when the project took a somewhat unexpected turn. I hope this is suspenseful enough. More on what we found soon.
When coming to Columbia I really missed the research environment I was part of before, when a team worked on a larger project all carving out terrain for themselves, but also continuously discussing each others' work on very much related topics. I found a comparable environment through the Understanding Autism project. Having sat on multiple research meetings, I thought I was ready to start with a very simple question: Do mothers of children with autism stop having more children? The question turned out to be a more complex one compared to what I initially thought it would be, and resulted in this paper published in Sociological Science in 2015.
I was a research assistant under the guidance of Peter Erdi at Kalamazoo College (2010, winter term). I joined a larger-scope project on US patent networks. Our idea was to think about the network of patents connected by citations as a representation of the innovation process. In this framework a citation implies that the cited patent reflects a piece of previously existing knowledge that the citing patent builds upon. We developed a methodology that (1) identified actual clusters of patents: i.e., technological branches, and (2) gave predictions about the temporal changes of the structure of the clusters. My involvement in the project was concluded with a paper in Scientometrics in 2012.
As a Master student at Corvinus University of Budapest I participated in a research project that studied the decision making process of high shool students transitioning into higher education or the labor market in the capital of Hungary. It was designed and conducted from start to finish by students and out of this experience grew out a group: Zsofia Boda, Zoltan Laszlo Csaba, Balint Neray, Judit Pal, Andras Voros and myself interested in the sociology of education and social networks. Under the mentorship of Karoly Takacs we founded the Research Center for Educational and Network Studies (RECENS).
This center - based on a pilot study in one school conducted by us - launched a national network panel investigation titled "Wired into Each Other: Network Dynamics of Adolescents in the Light of Status Competition, School Performance, Exclusion and Integration". This project received funding from the Hungarian Scientific Research Fund (OTKA). Between 2010 and 2013, about 1300 high-school students of 43 classrooms from seven schools nationwide participated in the survey that was complemented by teacher questionnaires and interviews. This work gave rise to another project: "Competition and Negative Networks: The Origin, Dynamics, and Harmful Consequences of Negative Relations" that received funding from the Hungarian National Academy.
I left the group physically (but with strong, now mostly virtual ties) at the outset of the large-scale panel study (after presenting some preliminary findings at SUNBELT in May 2010) to pursue my PhD at Columbia University - leaving friends and colleagues behind. I do think of this small community as my intellectual cradel.