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Three networks walk into a bar...


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In this presentation, originally given at Syracuse University, I discuss three meanings of "network" used in social science and humanities research. These meanings imply different methodological assumptions. I compare them, discuss how they lead to different insights, and suggest how to cautiously use them together.

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Three networks walk into a bar...

  1. 1. Three networks walk into a bar... Clay Spinuzzi
  2. 2. “When we talk about ‘networks’ are we talking about technologies, or societal organizations, or both? Or are we simply projecting the latest metaphor into any and every kind of social relationship we can see?” — Milton Mueller
  3. 3. We could ask... Arquilla Barabasi Boisot Burt Callon Castells Child Engestrom Grabher Granovetter Hughes Krackhardt Latour Law Miettinen Mol Mueller Nardi Polodny Ronfeldt Small Thompson
  4. 4. (Social) Network analysis Nodes: can be anything, as long as they are a specific type of thing Links/edges: Can be any relationship, as long as it’s a specific type of relationship Analysis: Typically quantitative The network is: a frame of analysis
  5. 5. Sociotechnical networks Nodes: can be anything, often of any category Links/edges: Can be any relationship, as long as participants interpret it as a relationship Analysis: Typically qualitative The network is: a frame of analysis
  6. 6. Organizational networks Nodes: are people Links/edges: Are lines of alliance and authority (communication, coordination, cooperation) Analysis: Often qualitative, sometimes quantitative The network is: a phenomenon
  7. 7. The three networks, compared Social Network Analysis Sociotechnical Networks Networked Organizations The network is... Analysis Analysis Phenomenon Nodes are... Homogeneous (human beings) Heterogeneous (human and nonhuman actants) Homogeneous (human beings) Links are ... Homogeneous (communicative connections) Heterogeneous (rhetorical and cognitive associations) Heterogeneous (communicative connections and lines of authority) Data collection methods are ... Quantitative Qualitative Quantitative and qualitative
  8. 8. Questions?