One of the corner stones of the contemporary sociological theory is the idea that individuals generate cultural structures through interaction to jointly make sense of the world, reinforce belonging to certain social groups and forge collective identity (e.g., Berger & Luckmann, 1966). Within this vein, studies on social networks and culture show that relations between persons affect their views, ideas, and perceptions (e.g., Carley, 1986; Lizardo, 2006; Pachucki & Breiger, 2010). However, until now, research has not identified the concrete principles of micro structuring that guide how interpersonal ties produce shared culture over the time of collective practice. In order to do this, a pragmatic approach, which takes into account the context of specific group practice when linking culture to social structure it is embedded in, is to be combined with a formal one, which detects fundamental mechanisms of socio-cultural micro structuring.
We develop a mixed method approach that applies statistical modelling to a combination of social and cultural network structures mapped using rich ethnographic data, such as interviews, dialogues and written texts, and regular sociometric survey data. First, utilizing word collocation technique we map cultural constructs specific for particular persons in their practical contexts based on multi-source textual corpora collected on each individual. Second, we use sociometric survey data triangulated with interviews and visual ethnographies to relate these cultural constructs to social ties between individuals. Finally, we jointly examine social and cultural structures in a fashion of quantitative socio-semantic network analysis (Roth & Cointet, 2010), treating them as multilevel structures that consist of meaning links connecting concepts at one level and social networks between individuals constructing these meanings at the other. Links between the two levels represent individuals’ usage of concepts. Multilevel exponential random graph models are applied to these structures in order to examine socio-semantic patterns and to capture the fundamental principles of how social network structure impacts groups’ cultural constructs over time.
We test the outlined approach using data on five artistic collectives located in different cities of Europe: St. Petersburg, London, Hamburg, Barcelona, and Madrid. We find the impact of interpersonal structure on concept sharing by individuals and on engagement of artists with the same meaning structures. This impact is different for two different types of interpersonal networks: emotional attachments and working relationships.