An Overview

This book is intended to be a guide or handbook to social network analysis, and not a text to be read through at one sitting. I have tried to confine subsidiary points and abstruse technicalities to footnotes, but a certain amount of complexity necessarily remains in the main text. I hope that this is at the absolute minimum. The newcomer to social network analysis is advised to read Chapters 2 and 3, and then to skim through the remainder of the book, coming back to points of difficulty later. Those readers with more familiarity with social network analysis may prefer to reverse this procedure, scanning Chapters 2 and 3 and then giving greater attention to a thorough review of Chapters 4-8. The chapters are best read in detail whenever a particular technique is to be used in a specific investigation. Although later chapters depend upon arguments raised in earlier chapters, each can be treated as a reference source to return to when attempting to use a particular technique.

Chapter 2 discusses the development of social network analysis, looking at its origins in the social psychology of groups and at its subsequent development in sociological and social anthropological studies of factories and communities. The chapter concentrates on the theoretical ideas which emerged in this work and shows how this was connected with the growing technical complexity of the work carried out from the 1970s. These late developments in social network analysis are illustrated through two of the benchmark studies of the early 1970s: Lee's work on the search for an abortionist (Lee, 1969) and Granovetter's work on the search for a job (Granovetter, 1974). In Chapter 3, I look at some of the issues that arise in defining the boundaries of social networks and in selecting relations for study. These discussions are used as a way of introducing some of the necessary paraphernalia of social network analysis. In particular, matrices and sociograms are introduced as easy and intuitive ways of modelling relational data.

6 Social network analysis

Chapter 4 introduces the basic building blocks of social networks. The chapter starts from a consideration of the fundamental sociometric idea of representing a network as a 'graph' of 'points' and 'lines', and it shows how these can be used to develop concepts such as 'distance', 'direction' and 'density'. In Chapter 5, I look at the ,centrality', of points and the 'centralization' of whole networks, building on the argument of Chapter 4 to show,how it is possible to move from local, 'ego-centric' measures to global, 'socio-centric' ones. Chapter 6 examines some of the principal concepts proposed for the investigation of sub-groups within social networks - the 'cliques' and 'circles' into which networks are divided. In Chapter 7 there is a shift of focus to the structure of 'positions' which are defined by social relations and to the ways in which these articulate into more complex 'topological' structures. Chapter 8 looks at the formal approaches to the display of relational data, moving beyond the simple sociogram to the production of multidimensional 'maps' of social structures. Finally, an Appendix gives an introduction to and comparison of the main computer programs for social network analysis.

Chapters 4-8 each conclude with a consideration of the application of the measures discussed in particular empirical studies. The investigations which are reviewed cover such areas as kinship, community structure, corporate interlocks and elite power. The aim of these illustrations from leading researchers is to give a glimpse of the potential offered by social network analysis.

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