Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Social network analysis

I thought earlier that if social capital lead to increased intellectual capital through relationships then analysing the relationships might be useful. But ...

I could see network analysis was going to be difficult. If I talk with half a dozen people per project in order to elicit their social capital in terms of structure, shared concepts and relationships, that gives me qualitative data to address a qualitative research question, but not quantitative data, which is what social network analysis uses.

I could ask questions like:
  • Who do you go to for information?
  • How frequent is the contact?
  • Is this formal or informal contact?
  • What type of contact is this? F2F, email, Facebook, phone, what?
So long as I ask everyone the same questions, I can use the replies to build a graph of the relationships. It allows me to build a picture so I can see who connects with most people. But it's a quantitative approach; it requires graph theory for the maths, (programs like UCInet analyse the data) and large numbers in order to produce useful information. So it can't be an approach that fits in with my constructionist philosophy.

And to do the analysis I need to have the whole network with a definable way of putting a boundary round it. That gives me a problem of the betweext and between, liminal spaces, that Sturdy writes about in "Guess who's coming to dinner". I might have a formal network of people within a project, but other sources of social capital might be who the consultant and client introduce each other to over a dinner party. So I dont' have a definable boundary.

Now, I've been warned to steer clear of the link between social capital and social network analysis. It is unclear what social capital is - is there an agreed definition? so using SNA, which assumes something is real enough to be measured, doesn't logically follow from an investigation into social capital. However, what might be useful is Granovetter's work on weak ties. So I'm off to read Granovetter.

Granovetter, M. S. (1973) 'The Strength of Weak Ties', The American Journal of Sociology, 78 (6), pp. 1360-1380. 1036
Sturdy, A., Schwarz, M. and Spicer, A. (2006) 'Guess who's coming to dinner? Structures and uses of liminality in strategic management consultancy', Human Relations, 59 (7), pp. 929-960. 900

1 comment:

David said...

I read this pamphlet and it was all about how Obama used social networks to unite his supporters and spread the word of his campaign. It is really interesting to see how much better he did merely by INFORMING people through these social networks. By him I mean he and his administration. Obamanomics