P10 (00 441 P10)
Varieties of Qualitative Perspectives in Social Network Analysis
Form of presentation:
The Truth Within – Re-interpreting the concept of social ties for social network research in the digital realm
Cornelia Reyes Acosta | King's College London | United Kingdom
Digitally mediated social interaction poses new challenges for the field of social network research: Online social networking platforms as a means to amplify the scope of social interaction, has given way to a more broadly defined approach to the nature of social ties.
In social network research, social ties are a firmly established indicator to identify the strength of social relationships in structural network analysis. Thereby, strong ties and weak ties are the most commonly used labels to identify tie strength. Given the implications of digitally mediated social interaction, I argue that these dichotomous indicators become brittle, as they do not convincingly capture the actual affordances of digitally mediated social ties.
Recently, the notion of latent ties gained currency to signpost this development by way of describing a set of social ties that “exist technically but have not yet been activated” (Haythornthwaite, 2002). Whereas this definition points to the fact that digitally mediated social interaction bears a strong potential in building new social ties, a clear definition in terms of what these ties represent as part of an individuals’ social network is yet to be found.
My research showed that looking at digitally mediated social ties from an affordance perspective, i.e. what resources they provide access to, the established strong and weak tie dichotomy does not suffice. This is because properties of digital platforms allow individuals to build social ties in a more efficient manner.
Taking the formation of trust for example, the literature (e.g. Krackhardt, 1986) references strong ties as most efficient in creating trust, given the fact that long-standing social relationship which exhibit reiterated moments of social interaction are seen as conducive to forming trust.
This is different in the digital realm: Individuals form what they perceive as strong ties by creating social bonds by creating interaction around seemingly mundane hashtags. Such ephemeral social bonds would hardly qualify as strong ties, nonetheless they are perceived as being conducive to forming trusted bonds between individuals.
Obviously, this poses significant challenges for a structural analysis of digitally mediated social interaction with traditional SNA tools, such as the name generator.
My aim is to put forward ideas on how to find ways to convincingly indicate the strength of digitally mediated social ties in network maps. This raises a number of compelling questions: How do we formulate accurate trigger questions for tracing digitally mediated social interaction with network diagrams? Is there a need to alter the rationale/framework of tools like the name generator? And do we have to move away from established conceptual assumptions in SNA that might be too rigid when researching social interaction in the digital realm?
Essentially, I argue that digitally mediated social ties be better conceptualised alongside a bandwidth of tie strength indicators: This resonates with the fact that digitally mediated social ties are more fluid when it comes to tie strength, expressing that they often take on strong tie and weak tie indicators at the very same time.
Event-Based Diaries as a method for investigating the practical formation of networks
Philip Roth | Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research ISI | Germany
Research has shown that informal advice networks are a key success factor for developers working on innovation projects in enterprises (Allen 1977). Following this, questions arise concerning the emergence of these networks and the corresponding milieu of interpersonal, spatial, and contextual interactions that facilitate their formation.
The research on these questions focuses particularly on the knowledge that actors have about others. This is grounded in the assumption that the occurrence of interactions results from a cognitive selection process. Contrasting research has demonstrated that unplanned encounters are essential to the emergence of informal advice networks (Backhouse & Dew 1992; cf. Feld 1981). I assume that encounters arise systematically and specific types of encounters systematically lead to specific forms of interaction. In understanding this system, there is therefore great potential for more comprehensive explanation of network dynamics.
Methods established in (qualitative) network research, however, are not suitable for investigating this systematic adequately. Especially two problems are crucial. On the one hand, observations are inappropriate because they require the decision when and where to observe. The research question, however, requires precisely this impartiality. On the other hand, interviews require recollections by the interviewees. It is expected that these are inaccurate and unstable, as peripheral dimensions of everyday practices are to be recalled.
Against this background, I suggest using event-based diaries to gather appropriate data (Roth 2015). In the lecture, I will outline how I applied the method in combination with focused interviews to collect data in the research & development departments of two companies. Based on the collected data, I will point out the advantages and weaknesses of the procedure.
Allen, Thomas J. (1977): Managing the flow of technology. Technology transfer and the dissemination of technological information within the R & D organization. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.
Backhouse Alan; Drew, Peter (1992): The design implications of social interaction in a workplace setting. In: Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design 19 (1), S. 573–584.
Feld, Scott L. (1981): The Focused Organization of Social Ties. In: American Journal of Sociology 86 (5), S. 1015–1035.
Roth, Philip (2015): Including the Diary Method in the Investigation of Practices Constituting Social Innovation Networks. In: Historical Social Research 40 (2), S. 331–350.
Using Graphical Bibliometric Reconstructions of Research Trails for Qualitative Investigations of Issue-Attention-Cycles in Science
Andreas Gravert | TU Dortmund | Germany
We observe issue-attention-cycles (Luhmann 1970; Downs 1972) not only in the mass media and in politics, but also in science. Since the attention of the scientific community is limited, only few scientific problems can be on top of the scientific agenda. As a result certain scientific problems receive strong attention by the scientific community, but only in a limited period of time and only at the cost of other problems receiving less attention. The reasons for the ups and downs of issues in science are not yet fully explored.
This paper identifies issue-attention-cycles in the field of planning studies and analyses the attention towards the issues “climate change” and “shrinking cities” since 1995. Using a sociology of science perspective, a bibliometric analysis of both issues is being conducted. Issue-related networks of researchers are evaluated by using co-authorships and citations as relations. This quantitative data is then used to identify researchers matching a predefined relation-profile. The selected researchers are approached and interviewed. To prepare for the interview, the bibliometric information is used to create a graphical representation of the interviewees’ individual research trails. Using this network illustration in the interview, the choices of topics in the research career of the interviewee are discussed. Thus quantitative network data is complemented with qualitative information on the meaning of relations between researchers and between publications. With this mixed-methods approach, it is aimed to find out, how researchers choose their research problem(s). Building on that, explanations of issue attention-cycles in science are discussed.