Who Thinks Who Knows Who? Socio-cognitive Analysis of Email Networks

Date of Submission: 
July 21, 2006
Report Number: 
06-023
Report PDF: 
Abstract: 
Interpersonal interaction plays an important role in organizational dynamics, and understanding these interaction networks is a key issue for any organization, since these can be tapped to facilitate various organizational processes. However, the approaches of collecting data about them using surveys/interviews are fraught with problems of scalability, logistics and reporting biases, especially since such surveys may be perceived to be intrusive. Widespread use of computer networks for organizational communication provides a unique opportunity to overcome these difficulties and automatically map the organizational networks with a high degree of detail and accuracy. This paper describes an effective and scalable approach for modeling organizational networks by tapping into an organization's email communication. The approach models communication between actors as non-stationary Bernoulli trials and Bayesian inference is used for estimating model parameters over time. This approach is useful for socio-cognitive analysis (who knows who knows who) of organizational communication networks. Using this approach, novel measures for analysis of (i) closeness between actors' perceptions about such organizational networks (agreement), (ii) divergence of an actor's perceptions about organizational network from reality (misperception) are explained. Using the Enron email data, we show that these techniques provide sociologists with a new tool to understand organizational networks.