Spatial Social Networks

Gemma Edwards’ article argues that a mix of quantitative and qualitative approaches in social network analyses would enable an understanding of both the structure and process of the network.
Social networks analysis evaluates social relationships among a set of actors, reminiscent of topological associations among objects or locations.
Adding a spatial component to social network analysis would enhance our understanding of the structure of the social network, and could provide insights into the process of social networks change over time, importing all the conceptual underpinnings geography and GIScience.
In so doing, concerns of scale and visualization become particularly important. At what unit/level should you explore relationships? At what spatial scale do you store information about the chose unit of analysis? How to visually represent movement, in a legible, informative way? When is it necessary to be spatially accurate, and when is it appropriate to forgo geography to showcase relationships? The answers to these questions will largely depend on the question being posed.
With the possibility for large spatial datasets, how do we store information? Should we use cyber-infrastructures?

Spatial Social Networks Analysis promises to deepen our understanding of how societies functions and how individuals within them relate to each other. With availability of geographically explict ‘Big Data’, the ethical, societal and political implications of such study need to be explored further.

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