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Is There a Physics of Society? January 10-12, 2008, Santa Fe NM

Organizers: Michelle Girvan (University of Maryland) and Aaron Clauset (Santa Fe Institute)

Friday, January 12, 2008

9:50 - 10:30 David Gibson (homepage)

Events and Their Aftermath

Society contains some durable stuff -- like buildings and power lines -- but the basic units of society are not objects (or people) but events. Events are linked contemporaneously and sequentially: events compete to happen, and what happens now constrains what can happen next. Actions are a subset of events, specifically those attributable to a purposeful agent. Action linkages are especially stark in conversation, given the one-speaker rule and relevance requirements. This is consequential for people trying to pursue pre-existing objectives and for analysts modeling the relationship between conversational behavior and pre-existing attributes and relations. I illustrate with results from a statistical study of turn-taking/addressing and network effects thereupon, a qualitative study of the grammatical environments that invite interruption, and a simulation study of encounter scheduling.