Quantifying Social Fields


The Institute for Research on Labor Employment (IRLE), the Program for the Comparative Study of Societies, and the Center for Culture, Organizations, and Politics are pleased to announce a conference on Quantifying Social Fields, to be held at IRLE on April 20-21, 2012. This conference will bring together scholars with a shared interest in a rapidly growing area of research: the study of social fields. One of the key puzzles in social theory is the concept of social structure. In the past 30 years, a disparate set of scholars has begun to formulate an alternative way to think about structure, what can be called the theory of fields. The basic idea is that many interesting varieties of social interaction occur in arenas where actors have a good deal of knowledge about what other actors are doing. This simple theoretical idea is quite flexible. It can be used to study the interactions of individuals, groups, firms, and states. At the same time, there has recently been considerable innovation in techniques useful for mapping and modeling the formation, stabilization, and transformation of social fields. Besides standard regression models, scholars have used network analysis, correspondence analysis, qualitative comparative analysis (QCA), agent-based modeling, and spatial analysis with geographic information systems.

The goal of the Quantifying Social Fields conference is to bring together scholars versed in the theory of fields with scholars using these techniques. Towards that end, presenters will give two sorts of talks: those that apply field theory to some substantive context and those that focus on some form of modeling. Presentations will last 20-30 minutes, followed by an open discussion. We hope to create a fruitful dialogue between the users of field theory and those who might provide new ways to analyze fields and collect data.

The conference is free and open to the public. However, please register in advance as limited space is available.