, Volume 119, Issue 3, pp 1387–1428 | Cite as

Social studies of scholarly life with sensor-based ethnographic observations

  • Mark KibanovEmail author
  • Raphael H. Heiberger
  • Simone Rödder
  • Martin Atzmueller
  • Gerd Stumme


Social network analysis is playing an increasingly important role in sociological studies. At the same time, new technologies such as wearable sensors make it possible to collect new types of social network data. We employed RFID tags to capture face-to-face interactions of participants of two consecutive Ph.D. retreats of a graduate school on climate research. We use this data in order to explore how it may support ethnographic observations and to gain further insights on scholarly interactions. The unique feature of the data is the opportunity to distinguish short and long conversations, which often have a different nature from a sociological point of view. Furthermore, an advantage of this data is the availability of socio-demographic, research-related, and situational attributes of participants. We show that, even though an interaction partner is often found rather randomly during coffee breaks of retreats, a strong homophily between participants from the same institutions or research areas exists. We identify cores of the networks and participants who play ambassador roles between communities, e.g., persons who visit the retreat for the second time are more likely to be ambassadors. Overall, we show the usefulness and potential of RFID tags for scientometric studies.


Social network analysis Face-to-face interaction RFID Sociology of science Mixed methods 



We thank Christoph Scholz and Björn Fries for helping to collect RFID data during the retreats. This work has been partially supported by Germany’s Excellence Strategy (DFG EXC 177 CliSAP) and the German Research Foundation (DFG) project “MODUS” (Grant AT 88/4-1).


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Copyright information

© Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, Hungary 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mark Kibanov
    • 1
    Email author
  • Raphael H. Heiberger
    • 2
  • Simone Rödder
    • 3
  • Martin Atzmueller
    • 4
  • Gerd Stumme
    • 1
  1. 1.Interdisciplinary Research Center for Information System Design (ITeG), Knowledge and Data Engineering GroupUniversity of KasselKasselGermany
  2. 2.Socium, University of BremenBremenGermany
  3. 3.Department of Social SciencesUniversity of HamburgHamburgGermany
  4. 4.Department of Cognitive Science and Artificial IntelligenceTilburg UniversityTilburgThe Netherlands

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