Tag Archives: Social Networks

Discussion from Socnet on Organizing and Networks

Here is Blyden Potts’ response to a socnet query bout who first started refering to organizations as networks…

It seems to me that asking the question the way your friend does
misunderstands the nature of the issue.
Social organization means patterns of social relations, and any pattern of
social relations is — or at least can be understood as — a social network.
Social networks are not a “fundamental form” of social organization, they
are a way of conceptualizing any and all social organization.

If your friend’s desire is to argue that people are organized in social
networks no reference to any literature would seem to be needed. It is
essentially tautological to say that people are organized in social
networks, a bit like saying the weather is organized meteorologically, and
if it really needs to be demonstrated then why not ground it directly in
empirical examples? The “new era” discovery of social network research was
not finding a new way in which people were organized. It was in finding a
new way to conceptualize and analyze whatever ways people are organized.

I think your friend would do well to reframe his approach from understanding
social networks as a type of organization, which it is not, to understand
social networks as a way of thinking about social organization, which it is.

And I would think Barnes would be a good example of an early work that lays
the foundation for the network way of thinking about social relations:

“Each person is, as it were, in touch with a number of other people, some of
whom are directly in touch with each other and some of whom are not…. I
find it convenient to talk of a social field of this kind as a network.* The
image I have is of a set of points some of which are joined by lines. The
points of the image are people, or sometimes groups, and the lines indicate
which people interact with each other. We can of course think of the whole
of social life as generating a network of this kind. For our present
purposes, however, I want to consider, roughly speaking, that part of the
total network that is left behind when we remove the groupings and chains of
interaction which belong strictly to the territorial and industrial systems.
… what is left is largely, though not exclusively, a network of ties of
kinship, friendship, and neighborhood. This network runs across the whole of
society and does not stop at the parish boundary.”  (p.43)

*Barnes’ footnote for “network” makes clear he is talking about an “image”
and “convention” for depicting social relations, not some particular KIND of
social relation.

Blyden Potts

Its a great quotation to have of Barnes.

I thought Simmel did some early conceptual framing… but i never got around to reading Simmel.  :<)

Barry Wellman’s original query:

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Filed under economic sociology, Networks, Scholars, Social Networks, social theory

From the Cyborg Desk: Warning sounded over ‘flirting robots’

Warning sounded over ‘flirting robots’ | Beyond Binary – A blog by Ina Fried – CNET News.com
A program that can mimic online flirtation and then extract personal information from its unsuspecting conversation partners is making the rounds in Russian chat forums, according to security software firm PC Tools.

I hope there is a way to test yourself. Seems further proof that alst year’s sci fi is next year’s sci reality.  Hal must be smiling wherever he slumbers.

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Filed under Living Web, technology

Oil and Politics Visualization

Just started playing with this nifty tool that allows one to visualize relational patterns of oil sector employees’ contributions to federal politicians.

Price for oil.

I didn’t notice a difference between PAC money and individual contribution.  It seems a stretch to me to say that because an employee of Chevron gave $1,500 to Obama, Obama is in the pocket of big oil the way Bush or Cheney are.   One interesting thing to look at is how many people max out to all candidates.  That would seem a prxoy for people buying access versus supporting the politician they actually prefer (for better or for worse).

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Filed under activism, Network Visuals, Political Economy, Politics, Power, Activism

Teenage Suicides Bewilder an Island, and the Experts

That is the headline of a very sad story about a cluster of three suicides on Nantucket.  Too bad they didn’t seem to look for any sociology experts.  Starting with Durkheim’s Suicide there  is a lot of evidence that suicide is not exclusively a problem of the “head” but also of the community and society.  All of the experts are trying to help the individuals (and I am sure with the best of intentions).

My students and I read  about how suicides often spread like other social contagions or information cascades in Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point.  If this is the case, the the specific network structure will matter.  One advantage to understanding suicide as a social and not merely a psychological phenomenon is that intervention strategies can shift or adapt.  Unfortunately, it is not clear that the psychiatrists are making much headway on what to do.  This article summarizes research on suicides in Micronesia and ends up concluding that “sociocultural factors” may matter.

Teenage Suicides Bewilder an Island, and the Experts – New York Times
Then the specialists began to descend. Some visited classrooms, wanting to talk students through their grief. Another emphasized the importance of telling young people that suicide was wrong, and an awful way to solve problems. Still another promoted relaxation techniques and warned that suicidal behavior could be contagious.

I want to find out more about what conclusions and recommendations come from looking at this problem as a social fact as much as a psychological one.

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Filed under psychology, Social Networks, sociology

The Wall Street Facebook

In a double example of the power of networks, my mother-in-law, who religiously reads the NY times ( I don’t have time) alerted me to this great network graphic today.

It shows actors in the world of finance (Wall Street’s Facebook) and also captures their firm, firm type, graduate school affiliation and undergraduate affiliation.

Article: http://dealbook.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/10/03/the-facebook-of-wall-streets-future/
Graphic: http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2007/10/02/business/1003-spg-web-MASTERS.jpg

Enjoy!
Jordi

I was bummed to see my alma mater’s  in-state rival, Macalester, with two nodes to Carleton’s goose egg.  Clearly, it produces too many scholars relative to investment bankers.  :<)

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Filed under Banking, Elites, Network Visuals, Social Networks