Social networks

Published on by dcsteveinwuhan

I have been renviewing the literature and surfing the internet looking at social network analysis. Social network analysis unlike some other social science methods examines structures of relationships rather than attributes of entities. Starting with graphs of inter-personal relationships in insitutional settings, social scientists used these maps to understand group dynamics and processes, deploying quantitative tools derived from graph theory. With the explosion of technology and network-cemtric organizational structures, communications, and production chains, these methods are becoming ever more relevant, particularly in a digital environment where the virtual and the face-to-face intersect. Essentially, a social network graph is a spatialization, a cartographic representation. The questions of interest are its size, shape and clumpiness, and core-periphery relationiships, from a whole network point of view. From an ego-centric standpoint, questions include centtrality, who connected an individual ego is to its alters, how close it is to others in the network, and its betweenness in terms of information flow through the network. Networks have clusters, and cliques, some nodes are central, and if those nodes are removed, the entire network would be broken up, bridges or cut-points. The edges of a network are important, an edge indicates where one network ends and others prehaps begin but where no information exists, the stength of weak ties in some cases is more important than strong ties, particularly when you are trying to find work. Your extended network of associations  is more likely to know of new opportunities than your closest friends who have the same information you do. With facebook and other social media, social network analysis is even more relevant, large graphs can be created from the links using software such a Geph, or Graphviz,.

The occupy phenomena is an interesting case of network dynamics as is the Tea Parties or most other social movements in recent years. The decline of one-to-many media and corresponding rise of many-to-many forms has exposed the network dynamics of society in general. A standard organizational chart of CEO down is a network but so are the informal ties between workers at the same level or between levels, this complicates management of complex organizations.

Social networks can be geographically situated in relation to place, understanding the contemporary worrld are assemblages of cities and urban regions in global and sub-global networks breaks down the nation0-state as primary unit of analysis and action, creating new political geographies in the process. The theme  at the last Inernational sociological world congress was specifically the fact that all the key concepts of sociology are being transformed and reshaped by global integration, sociology as a 19th century discipline was bounded by both its subject area and by its geographical scope, but those boundaries are blurring, between the humanities and the sciences and acrodd territorial entities.

Interesting stuff.


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