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SOCNET  January 2006

SOCNET January 2006

Subject:

Re: CSS & "A Million Little Pieces"

From:

Steven Corman <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Steven Corman <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sun, 22 Jan 2006 06:49:40 -0700

Content-Type:

text/plain

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text/plain (196 lines)

*****  To join INSNA, visit http://www.insna.org  *****

Michael,

"I do believe that something like actual, 'objective' human behaviors
happen in the world."  Wow, how un-PC.  Can't you get your cultural
anthropologist license revoked for saying something like that? :-)

My dissertation (way back when) was on this subject of perceived versus
observable behavior in network research, and it's been the main thrust
of my research program since. One important point is that it is
extremely hard to even *get* observable behavior measures, especially in
a network of any appreciable size. So the studies that have looked at
this have used very small groups, strange contexts (e.g. HAM radio
operators who keep logs), questionable observation schemes (walk through
an organization every half hour and write down everyone you see
talking), or incomplete records of behavior (i.e. e-mail flows).

In cases when people have compared such observations to standard network
questionnaire responses, they have found correlations that range from
bad to terrible.  Some people think these data are noisy (more or less)
and by mathematical manipulation we can recover valid info about the
actual behavior.  I disagree with this and believe (as you seem to) that
they are different phenomena.  I have done one study showing that
self-report data is systematically biased by factors such as one's
communication load and position in an organization structure, and
another showing that people vary widely in terms of the "evidence" they
use for formulating their answers to network questionnaires.  Based on
this research I've theorized (borrowing Giddens's notion of duality)
that networks exist in the domain of social structure, behavior exists
in the domain of social interaction, and processes of social activation
and social cognition continuously transform one into the other. (Cites
to these studies are below and I will send on request.)

If you believe this model then you cannot really say that one of the
phenomena is more valid or important than the other.  People act on the
basis of the network they perceive, so you can't hope to explain their
behavior by just looking at what they do.  Yet the things they actually
do have consequences (like transferring information to someone else)
whether they accurately perceive this or not, so you can't assess the
impact of a network by just looking at people's perceptions, either.
Unfortunately, this creates quite a research challenge because you need
good data on both phenomena and as I said above the observable is very
hard to get.

Regarding Krackhardt's cognitive nets, my guess is that they yield a
high-quality representation of the collective perceived network rather
than a valid measure of behavior.  But I know of no study that has done
a three-way comparison between perceives, cognitive, and observable
networks.  If you find one please let me know.

Good luck!

Steve

Corman, S. R., & Scott, C. R. (1994). Perceived communication
relationships, activity foci, and observable communication in
collectives. Communication Theory, 4, 171-190.

Corman, S. R., & Bradford, L. B. (1993) Situational effects on the
accuracy of self-reported organizational communication behavior.
Communication Research, 20, 822-840.

Corman, S. R., & Krizek, R. L. (1993) Accounting resources for
organizational communication and individual differences in their use.
Management Communication Quarterly, 7, 5-35.

________________________________________________
Steven R. (Steve) Corman
Professor, Hugh Downs School of Human Communication
Arizona State University
http://www.public.asu.edu/~corman
 
Chair, Organizational Communication Division
International Communication Association
http://www.icahdq.org


-----Original Message-----
From: Social Networks Discussion Forum [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On
Behalf Of Michael Reed
Sent: Sunday, January 22, 2006 5:55 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: [SOCNET] CSS & "A Million Little Pieces"

*****  To join INSNA, visit http://www.insna.org  *****

I'm a cultural anthropologist who is new to new SNA; hence, I've turned
to
Krackhardt's High-Tech Managers data (including the 1987 article,
"Cognitive
Social Structures")--recommended by Wasserman and Faust (1994)--as a way
to
learn about a "simple," one-mode, 3-relation set of SNA data. (I'm about
to
conduct similar data collection with a group of 40 women entrepreneurs.)

As I was reading the 1987 article (expecting, modestly, to learn some
basic
SNA skills), I was struck by the actual focus of Krackhardt's research,
i.e., the contention that "...what people say...bears no useful
resemblance
to their behavior" (Bernard et al., 1982). The article bears down on
BEHAVIOR ("what actually happened") vs. COGNITION/PERCEPTION ("people's
perceptions, often in retrospect, of what actually happened").

I am intrigued by Figure 3 in the article, which shows Person 15's
"slice"
(how he/she sees relations between pairs of the 21 managers), vs.
Figures 1
& 2 (the "locally aggregated" and "consensus" structures). It is clear
that
Person 15's perceptions are wildly different from the more "objective"
measures. I personally would be concerned if my own perceptions of
"reality"
varied that much from "actual reality"! I would be tempted to say
cynically
that Person 15 is "living in a bubble"! (but that's no doubt unfair).
For
example, in my daily life, I frequently try to do "reality checks" to
make
certain that my thoughts and perceptions jibe, more or less, with those
of
other people.

Finally, I just happened to read the Krackhardt article right after
reading
Mary Karr's op-ed piece, "His So-Called Life," in the Jan. 15 NYTimes.
Here
she weighs in on the recent uproar about James Frey ("A Million Little
Pieces") and the question: Should a memoir be held to higher "factual"
standards than a piece of fiction? As someone who wrote a daily research
journal in Africa and who is now in the midst of trying to finish a
novel, I
am very interested in whether or not it is even possible for a memoirist
to
accurately document on paper "the way life and behavior ACTUALLY
occurred at
some past time." (As a novelist, I am most concerned with what I would
call
"emotional truth," although getting the "facts" straight is important,
too.)

I know my own memory to often be extremely "inaccurate"; I don't know if
this inaccuracy is a function of my advancing age (54) or simply of the
fact
that I didn't pay as much attention to memory when I was younger and
thus
didn't see how problematic it is. Sometimes I'm nearly resigned to
believing
that all human memory is basically a "creative reconstruction" (done in
the
present according to present needs and wants) of the past. That's why
historians turn to written, archival sources for help (not that they are
without bias or error--we can never escape the fact that fallible humans
are
involved).

Still, I do believe that something like actual, "objective" human
behaviors
happen in the world. The question is, How accurately can we humans
measure
or remember or understand those behaviors, i.e., "what really happened"?
Krackhardt ends his article by stating, "But the task of future research
should not be to show that behaviors are more important than cognitions,
nor
that cognitions are more important than behaviors. Rather, our task will
be
to show the consequence of each--behavior and cognitions."

As someone who believes that there IS an important difference between a
memoir and a piece of fiction, I would have to say that, in some sense,
the
behaviors must take precedence (although I admit that "behavior" is
itself a
cognitive creation; we never escape from our mental jail): we need to
make
certain that our cognition about the past doesn't willfully (or even
unintentionally) distort past behaviors.

Michael C. Reed, Ph.D.
Independent Consultant & Cultural Anthropologist
Kalamazoo, Mich., USA
[log in to unmask]   Tel. 269-342-4025  Cell phone 269-808-8983

_____________________________________________________________________
SOCNET is a service of INSNA, the professional association for social
network researchers (http://www.insna.org). To unsubscribe, send
an email message to [log in to unmask] containing the line
UNSUBSCRIBE SOCNET in the body of the message.

_____________________________________________________________________
SOCNET is a service of INSNA, the professional association for social
network researchers (http://www.insna.org). To unsubscribe, send
an email message to [log in to unmask] containing the line
UNSUBSCRIBE SOCNET in the body of the message.

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