Socially Networked

In the review paper titled ‘Mixed-Method Approaches to Social Network Analysis’, Edwards begins by outlining the two distinct approaches that one can adopt in the study of social networks through Social Network Analysis (SNA). A network can be described as a constellation of interconnected nodes linked to one another through lines that represent flows or relationships. In SNA quantitative approaches measure network properties such as density, segregation and centrality in a precise fashion, whereas qualitative approaches are more interested in the meaning of this structure, the process of how it came about and the context in which the network is found.

The two approaches affect more than just the way in which the analysis of the networks is executed, but also how the data is collected. The primary modes of data collection for quantitative analysis are walking interviews and visual mapping in which agents or nodes express their perception on the quality and nature of their links with other actors. This method of data collection brings to mind participatory GIScience, where by which the actors of the network volunteer information from an inside view which allow the study of the means and context of the network. This data can then be translated to relational data stored in adjacency matrix which stores information about which agents are tied to which and in what direction. This kind of data is more associated with quantitative analysis.

Sociograms can be described as a is a graphic representation of social links and can be used to both display network structure and offer insight to quantitative researchers who may have missed on linkages and dynamics when analyzing their ethnographic raw data. The link to GIScience demonstrated in this aspect of SNA is the significance of proximity, the position of nodes in a sociogram affect the how one may understand the network. Two unrelated nodes may be positioned close to each other without any links between them, however the mere fact that they are situated next to each other would lead one to believe they are more related to each other than nodes further away (Toblers’ law).

I would echo the push this article makes for a mixed methods approach to SNA, and I believe there are similar need in the realm of GIScience. Precise measurements without context and meaning are weak.

– Othello


Comments are closed.