assortative disassortative
Posted: 15 September 2012 08:19 PM   [ Ignore ]
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A dense NYTimes piece from last Sunday:If Achilles Used Facebook...Uses the words “assortative” and “disassortative.” OED defines as

That assorts; assortative mating, non-random mating, mating on the basis of the possession by the partners of similar characteristics, circumstances, etc.

Is this a term of art?

Social networks have been widely studied in recent years; researchers have looked at the interconnectedness of groups like actors, musicians and co-authors of scientific texts. These networks share similar properties: they are highly connected, small worlds. They are assortative, which means that people tend to associate with people like themselves. And their degree distributions are usually scale-free — a small number of people tend to have lots of friends.

Nevah hoiduvit. and disassortative:

“Beowulf” is also assortative, but only if the main character, who is very different from the rest, is removed from the network. The “Tain,” like the fictional networks we studied, is disassortative.

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Posted: 15 September 2012 10:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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They are assortative, which means that people tend to associate with people like themselves.

Using long words to state the obvious is one of the techniques employed since time out of mind, by people who, for any reason, pretend to more authority than they are in fact entitled to. Another word for it is “bullshitting”.

Edit: Yes, Oecolampadius, I’d say bullshitting definitely qualifies as an art ;-)

[ Edited: 15 September 2012 11:08 PM by lionello ]
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Posted: 16 September 2012 03:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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The OED has assortative since 1897. There’s no entry for disassortative, but it seems like a natural development. The OED citations, however, all refer to mating and to animals. None of them apply the term to humans or to social groups. A more common term of art for the concept is sexual selection.

And I would question the author’s knowledge of the works of literature they describe, at least Beowulf. The character Beowulf is very much like the Danes. He speaks a common language; he is a warrior in a culture that values martial prowess above all else; he knows the rituals and customs; he had lived in Hrothgar’s court as a boy; and many of the other characters are also from various places throughout Scandinavia. He is about as out of place as a Swedish computer programmer would be at a programmer’s convention in Copenhagen.

I wrote the above without reading the article, basing my criticism on the OED definition of assortative and not on what they actually measured. Now that I’ve read (or at least skimmed) the article, they’re not measuring selection based on shared types, but rather on friendly v. hostile interactions in the narratives. So they’re using the term assortative quite differently than those biologists who coined it.

I also note that their sources for Beowulf are woefully out of date. They would be torn to shreds presenting these sources at a medieval studies conference or submitting it to a journal on Anglo-Saxon studies. The authors also incorrectly describe the dating of the manuscript. They, like many non-experts, confuse the composition of the poem with the copying of the codex. They state the codex is dated to the 8th–early 11th centuries, but those are the dates for the composition of the poem. (We really have no clue when it was written.) The surviving copy is conservatively dated from 975–1025, with some narrowing that range to 1005–1015.

[ Edited: 16 September 2012 03:51 AM by Dave Wilton ]
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Posted: 16 September 2012 03:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Edit: Yes, Oecolampadius, I’d say bullshitting definitely qualifies as an art ;-)

Amen good Lionello. Amen.

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Posted: 16 September 2012 06:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Assortative has clearly spread beyond mating, even if the dictionaries haven’t caught up with the general use in network theory (which includes networks of personal associations).

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