Social Network Analysis

person at computer In 1947 Milton Gordon urged researchers to extend their scope beyond national boundaries in order to study the sociological phenomenon of culture. The beginnings of social network analysis are evident in Gordon's discussion of the concept of sub-culture. Here the term refers to sub-divisions within a culture. These sub-divisions are usually usually formed around common interests or goals. (Gordon, p.40-41) Formation based upon common bonds is a central tenet of the traditional concept of community. (Yu, p.15)

Social network analysis is a departure from traditional methods of viewing sociological issues in that the method focuses upon the concept of the unit as opposed to focus on the individual. (Garton et al, p.4) Garton et al define social network analysis as the description and patterns of network relations, and the ways in which these patterns and relations affect individuals and organizations. Similar to Gordon's sub-culture analysis, emphasis is placed upon the combined effects of individuals as a unit. Integral to this process is the flow of information and resources within the network. In addition, social network analysts study behavioral and attitude characteristics of network members. (Garton et al, p.3) In short, "the social network approach facilitates the study of how information flows through direct and indirect network ties, how people acquire resources, and how coalitions and cleavages operate." (Garton et al, p.3)

Barry Wellman has done extensive research regarding the social impact of computer networks and determined that "computer-supported social networks (CSSNs) sustain strong, intermediate, and weak ties that provide information and social support in both specialized and broadly based relationships. CSSNs foster virtual communities…" (Wellman et al, p.213) Such ties are enhanced by a group member's ability to rapidly transmit large amounts of information. (Wellman et al, p. 217) Because computer social networks exist in the cyber world, they function independently of geographical constraints. This feature makes the computer social network less susceptible to the relationship degradation that sometimes accompanies residential mobility. (Wellman et al, p.221) person at computer

If you would like more information about ongoing research being done in this field here are two good reference sites:


Introduction
CMC and Technology
Bulletin Board Systems
Sub-cultures and Cross-cultural Communication
Looking Ahead
References