From June 15th to 19th, Middle East Technical University (METU) at Ankara hosted the PRIMO method training workshop with the theme of applying social network analysis (SNA) to the study of international politics. The event was organized by Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence Center for European Studies, Faculty of Economics and Administrative Sciences, and was jointly held with the 14th METU IR Conference from June 17th.
Although SNA has been increasingly influential in Social Science since the early 1950s, it has not emerged as a sophisticated research method for international relations scholars until the early 2000s. Therefore, the METU workshop was designed to provide participants with a balanced exposure to both the theoretical underpinnings and the technical means on which SNA research relies. The first part of the workshop is comprised of a mixture of theoretical lectures, case study examples, software application training, and PRIMO ESRs’ presentations that discussed the potentials of SNA in the contexts of their own doctoral projects. These discussions had covered a wide range of topics, including network effects on political thinking (Prof. Elif Erişen), trade and security relations (Prof. Belgin), online public opinion (Dr. Emre Hatipoğlu), international organizations (Dr. Onur Bahçecik), international terrorism (Dr. Zerrin Torun), religion (Prof. Zana Çıtak), and civilian mobilization (Dr. Ceren Ergenç). During these sessions, participants from IR backgrounds also seek active conversations with SNA experts with regard to various practical issues of research design, causal inference, and data sampling associated with the SNA methodology.
The second part of the workshop (from June 17th) unfolded in the context of intensive interaction with many area studies experts attending the 14th METU IR Conference. The empirical focus had shifted to Middle East and East Asia, two regions that will have profound impact on the ongoing power transition on a global scale. While our PRIMO team was gaining further insights into the intersection of regional politics and social network perspectives, we also held a well-received PRIMO panel on the second day of the conference, discussing both China’s image in Africa and Islamism as a conceptual tool for understanding IR.
Personally speaking, this workshop fits my research interests especially well, because SNA may potentially revolutionize the way that researchers analyze various structures in international relations, in particular military alliances as security institutions. Yet, I also believe it has, in general, established a good example in terms of incorporating multiple training opportunities (theories, practices, networking, panel organization etc).