Social network analysis is playing an increasingly important role in sociological studies. At the same time, new technologies such as wearable sensors make it possible to collect new types of social network data. We employed RFID tags to capture face-to-face interactions of participants of two consecutive Ph.D. retreats of a graduate school on climate research. We use this data in order to explore how it may support ethnographic observations and to gain further insights on scholarly interactions. The unique feature of the data is the opportunity to distinguish short and long conversations, which often have a different nature from a sociological point of view. Furthermore, an advantage of this data is the availability of socio-demographic, research-related, and situational attributes of participants. We show that, even though an interaction partner is often found rather randomly during coffee breaks of retreats, a strong homophily between participants from the same institutions or research areas exists. We identify cores of the networks and participants who play ambassador roles between communities, e.g., persons who visit the retreat for the second time are more likely to be ambassadors. Overall, we show the usefulness and potential of RFID tags for scientometric studies.
Social studies of scholarly life with sensor-based ethnographic observations | SpringerLink