Northwestern Events Calendar


WED@NICO SEMINAR: Daniel Romero, University of Michigan "Networks and Identity Drive Geographical Properties of the Diffusion of Linguistic Innovation"

Daniel Romero

When: Wednesday, May 18, 2022
12:00 PM - 1:00 PM Central

Where: Kellogg Global Hub, 4302, 2211 Campus Drive, Evanston, IL 60208 map it

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Student - Public - Post Docs/Docs - Graduate Students

Cost: Free

Contact: Emily Rosman   (847) 491-2527

Group: Northwestern Institute on Complex Systems (NICO)

Category: Academic, Lectures & Meetings


NOTE: We have changed location this week, and will meet in person at the KELLOGG GLOBAL HUB, Room 4302 or online via Zoom.


Daniel Romero, Associate Professor of Information, Complex Systems, and Computer Science, University of Michigan


Networks and Identity Drive Geographical Properties of the Diffusion of Linguistic Innovation


Adoption of cultural innovation (e.g., music, beliefs, language) is often geographically correlated, with adopters largely residing within the boundaries of relatively few well-studied, socially significant areas. These cultural regions are often hypothesized to be the result of either (i) identity performance driving the adoption of cultural innovation, or (ii) homophily in the networks underlying diffusion. In this study, we show that demographic identity and network topology are both required to model the diffusion of innovation, as they play complementary, interacting roles in producing its spatial properties. We develop an agent-based model of cultural adoption and validate geographic patterns of transmission in our model against a novel dataset of innovative words that we identify from a 10% sample of Twitter. Using our model, we are able to directly compare a combined network + identity model of diffusion to simulated network-only and identity-only counterfactuals -- allowing us to test the separate and combined roles of network and identity. While social scientists often treat either network or identity as the core social structure in modeling language change, we show that key geographic properties of diffusion actually depend on both factors. Although network and identity each give rise to similar pathways of transmission between USA's counties, each one also influences different mechanisms of diffusion. Specifically, we find that the network principally drives spread to and from urban counties via weak-tie diffusion, while identity plays a disproportionate role in transmission to and from rural counties via strong-tie diffusion. Our work suggests that models must integrate network and identity in order to understand and reproduce the adoption of innovation. 

Speaker Bio:

Daniel Romero is an Associate Professor of Information, Complex Systems, and Computer Science at the University of Michigan. He received his Ph.D at the Cornell University Center for Applied Mathematics (CAM) in 2012, and he was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Northwestern Institute on Complex Systems (NICO) from 2012-2014. His main research interest is the empirical and theoretical analysis of Social and Information Networks, with a particular interest in understanding the mechanisms involved in network evolution, information diffusion, and interactions among people on the Web and in complex organizations.


In person: Kellogg Global Hub, Room 4302
Remote option:
Passcode: NICO2022

About the Speaker Series:

Wednesdays@NICO is a vibrant weekly seminar series focusing broadly on the topics of complex systems and data science. It brings together attendees ranging from graduate students to senior faculty who span all of the schools across Northwestern, from applied math to sociology to biology and every discipline in-between. Please visit: for information on future speakers.

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