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The extended version of my keynote at the last SUNBELT conference (May
2004, Portoroz) can be downloaded from my website:
I argue that we need to give more attention to questions which
relationships matter in which contexts and which structural
characteristics create opportunities in which contexts and in which not.
The keynote is directly relevant for recent discussions on the list
about multiple relationships and the relation between KM and SNA.
Please, find a summary below.
Frans N. Stokman, ICS, University of Groningen, The Netherlands
What Binds Us When With Whom? Content and Structure in Social Network
Extended version of keynote at the SUNBELT XXIV International Social
Network Conference, Portorož (Slovenia) May 13, 2004
I first introduce the reader to the concept of social capital and the
different exchange approaches in social network analysis. Exchange
approaches make explicit that there is always both cooperation and
competition in and between relationships as well as between networks.
Subsequently I review a number of social network studies that are
focused on the role of social networks in production. I conclude that
there is at present very strong evidence that social networks matter in
production and the formation of norms and trust. The arguments are
predominantly structural, however, and content plays a subordinate role.
In addition, we have extensive social network research on the different
types of network exchanges, but their importance can only be understood
if they are studied in relation to each other. Again, this has not been
done. In order to link different types of network exchanges, I argue
that it is necessary to give analytic primacy to goals that cannot be
realized in isolation and thus lead to joint production and sharing.
These are goals not only in the context of material gain, but also
hedonic ('feeling good') and normative goals ('behaving appropriately').
What we need is a heuristic to select the combination of processes and
corresponding ties that matter in the given setting. It implies
reflection on what is produced by which network under which structural
conditions and why. The heuristic is subsequently presented and applied
in two completely different contexts. In the first illustration it is
shown that the heuristic places collective decision making outcomes in
the perspective of joint production and leads to fundamentally new
perspectives in collective decision making and policy networks research.
Whereas that illustration lies primarily in the context of material
gains, the next illustration is chosen in the context of hedonic gains
to be obtained from friendship relationships. The two applications aim
to show as well how game theory, computer simulation, and statistical
methods are important modern tools for social network analysis,
depending on the context of the network research.
Frans N. Stokman
Professor of Social Science Research Methodology
University of Groningen
Grote Rozenstraat 31
9712 TG Groningen
Phone work +31.50.3636259
Fax work +31.50.3636226
Private phone +31.50.5350040
Email: [log in to unmask]
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