My research revolves around the themes of cooperation, trust, and (the dynamics of) social networks, with applications to adolescent networks, online social networks, and laboratory experiments.
Current research projects/themes:
Cooperation and trust in dynamic networks
Much sociological research suggests that certain types of network structures, in particular structures with much closure, promote cooperation in social dilemmas. If that is the case, then how can we explain the emergence of these network structures? Under what conditions are actors willing to invest in social cohesion? We address such questions using formal theoretical models, simulations, and laboratory experiments.
Collaborators: Vincent Buskens, Vincenz Frey, Stephanie Rosenkranz, Werner Raub, Karen S. Cook, Roeliene van Es.
Learning in social networks
One of the best known aspects of social networks is their capacity to transmit information, which in turn leads to differential access to valuable information by actors with different network positions (i.e., "the strength of weak ties" or "structural holes"). Yet, studies in which a causal connection between network structure and learning is empirically established are relatively rare. In a number of experiments, we study how actors use information obtained via a social network to solve problems and how they invest in such networks.
Collaborators: Vincent Buskens, Bas Hofstra, Charlotte Rutten.
Structure and dynamics of online social networks
The emergence of online social media platforms allows for the study of social network structure at a very large scale, for the first time in the history of sociology. In a number of larger and smaller projects with various collaborators, I study the large-scale structure of online social networks, how they relate to “offline” social networks, and their impact on social processes. Collaborators: Frank van Tubergen, Bas Hofstra, Remko Helms, Marco Spruit, Erik van Ingen, Lukas Norbutas.
Trust and the sharing economy
The recently evolved “sharing economy”, propelled by online interaction platforms and social media, challenges established forms of economic exchange and makes big promises with regard to sustainability, efficiency, equality, and democratization. Yet, the mechanisms by which the sharing economy functions, in particular the essential emergence of trust in sharing economy interactions, are poorly understood. We address such issues using online experiments and online data. Collaborators (among others): Paolo Parigi, Lukas Norbutas, Maarten ter Huurne, Reint Jan Renes, Vincent Buskens.
Trust on the dark web
Why would anyone engage in risky business with a total stranger? In this project, we analyze how criminals cooperate on Dark Web forums. We use rational choice and game theoretical explanations of individual trust and study effects of reputation, information diffusion and rule enforcement on exchanges in Dark Web criminal networks. We use text mining techniques, advanced social network analysis and agent-based models on unique longitudinal data of online exchanges from more than 13,000 Tor forum hosts to answer our research question. Collaborators: Lukas Norbutas, Stijn Ruiter, TNO. Funded by NWO.