[Editor’s Note: We are pleased to welcome Eric Quintane who collaborated with Guido Conaldi, Marco Tonellato, and Alessandro Lomi on their paper “Modeling Relational Events: A Case Study on an Open Source Software Project,”. The article appeared in the most recent issue of Organizational Research Methods.]
Much data used in research on organization presents itself in the form of a sequence of relations between two or more social actors. These event can be articles between coauthors, e-mails or phone calls between employees, employees solving problems, etc. Current methods for social network analysis require the transformation of these data structures into one or several cross sections, which removes valuable information about, for example, the exact sequence of the events or the changes in the composition of the set of actors engaged in these events. In this work, we present a statistical framework that enables the modeling of these relational event sequences without requiring transformation of the sequence and extent the framework to encompass events that link different kinds of actors (such as employees and problems). We provide an illustration of the model in the context of problem solving by developers in a Free Open Source Software Project.
Sequences of relational events underlie much empirical research on organizational relations. Yet relational event data are typically aggregated and dichotomized to derive networks that can be analyzed with specialized statistical methods. Transforming sequences of relational events into binary network ties entails two main limitations: the loss of information about the order and number of events that compose each tie and the inability to account for compositional changes in the set of actors and/or recipients. In this article, we introduce a newly developed class of statistical models that enables researchers to exploit the full information contained in sequences of relational events. We propose an extension of the models to cater for sequences of relational events linking different sets of actors. We illustrate the empirical application of relational event models in the context of a free/open source software project with the aim to explain the level of effort produced by contributors to the project. We offer guidance in the interpretation of model parameters by characterizing the social processes underlying organizational problem solving. We discuss the applicability of relational events models in organizational research.
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Guido Conaldi is a senior lecturer in economic sociology at the University of Greenwich, UK. He holds an MSc in sociology from the London School of Economics and a PhD in social sciences from the Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies in Pisa, Italy. His research interests lie in the area of interpersonal and organizational social networks; his current research investigates the social mechanisms contributing to the endogenous formation of structure and hierarchy in self-managing groups.
Marco Tonellato is a PhD candidate at the Institute of Management (IMA) of the University of Italian Switzerland, Lugano and a visiting researcher at Tepper School of Business, Carnegie Mellon University, USA. His research interests include the analysis of social networks within and between organizations and the organizational aspects of open productions. His current research focuses on coordination and learning processes of self-managed groups in open source software projects.