This had led me down a rabbit's hole...
Apparently, a group of French researchers have been going through medieval land transactions in the province of Lot (in S. France) to reconstruct social networks. The title of this piece is "Social Networking gets Medieval." From the title and my short description, I was thinking that they had constructed a computer model (a la Facebook) to reconstruct social networks in late medieval France. But that's not quite what these researchers did.
Publishing their findings in the journal Neurocomputing, these researchers went through legal transactions to figure out who knew who and where and when. Their conclusion? There are lots of pretty graphs and they figure out that these statistical models can help historians in some ways, although social context matters greatly and a "perfect community" (whatever that means) can't really be constructed.
I don't really know what to make of all this. On the one hand, computer modeling of intricate relationships - especially if it were user-friendly and widely available on the web - would be tremendously useful, especially if you're dealing with (what seem to be) tight social networks, like we do indeed have in most areas of the Middle Ages (and elsewhere). One could log-in, add a name and some information about that person, and have the program automatically draw out possible connections to other people that other scholars have found.
On the other hand, I think what they're doing is just called prosopography and I think Jonathan Jarrett (among others) knows a heck of a lot about. These French mathematicians are, in a sense, reinventing the wheel here, rather than utilizing the voluminous literature on social networks in the Middle Ages that generations of (predominantly German) scholars have put together. Look at what Paul Ormerod says about quantitative analysis. He's just plain wrong. This model is all numbers without the analysis.
Now, my head's a little fuzzy. When I saw Nature.com's headine, I was expecting Facebook to be made relevant to me as a scholar. Now, I'm dealing with free-lance economist/ historian consultants and statistical analysis of social networks. Help!