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SOCNET  January 2006

SOCNET January 2006

Subject:

Re: SNA is not a method

From:

Steve Borgatti <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

[log in to unmask]

Date:

Fri, 6 Jan 2006 17:04:17 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (275 lines)

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

Emanuela, you ask "Have we completed building the (social) network theory
that deals with social actors including organisations, institutions,
managers and firms?" My answer: I certainly hope not, as I'm too old to
learn a new trade.

 

If you thought I was saying that (a) we have finished theorizing - all is
known, or (b) that there is meant to be just one network theory that
encompasses everything, this is a complete misreading of my comments.

 

I don't think that in any field - and especially any social science field -
have we (successfully) completed theorizing about anything.

 

As for the one-theory doctrine, I don't think it reasonable. I do think it
might be a strategically useful goal to seek universal laws across all kinds
of networks, as the physicist do. I'm sure this will lead to interesting
discoveries. But I'm equally sure that a multiplicity of different theories
containing different mechanisms and constructs will be needed for the
effective explanation and prediction of different phenomena. Just as a
theory of optics is different from a theory of percolation, a network theory
of population density in food webs is going to be quite different from a
network theory of personnel turnover in organizations - they are different
phenomena with different rules.

 

The point I was making about theory in my original post was simply this:
That there exists such a thing as network theorizing - that there are
theories out there about all kinds of things like innovation and governance
and joint ventures that are recognizably *network* theories. The field of
networks, I was saying, is distinguishable from other fields not just by its
methodology but by its theoretical perspectives and by its chosen subject,
which is to say its data. The other point that I made was that relational
thinking - once a hard sell outside of network circles - is now front and
center in many fields.

 

Steve

 

 

Steve Borgatti

Professor & Chair, Organization Studies Dept.

Boston College

Tel: +1 978 456 7356; Fax: +1 978 456 7373

E-mail: [log in to unmask]

  _____

From: E.Todeva [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
Sent: Friday, January 06, 2006 12:15 PM
To: borgatts; SOCNET
Subject: RE: SNA is not a method

 

Steve Borgatti offered a very good summary of the developments that are
associated with SNA and its 'unfortunate' label. I would agree with
everything apart from the statement that there is a theory.

 

Have we completed building the (social) network theory that deals with
social actors including organisations, institutions, managers and firms?

What about inter-organisational relations, business partnerships, strategic
alliances, or shared assets of multinational corporations that are addressed
by management/ strategy theorising?

What about economic theories that explain actor's behaviour, choices and
relationships between economic actors?

What about complex and heterogeneous networks (close systems, open systems)
that are composed of individual human actors, technological devices, and
cultural conventions (rules)?

I am not sure there is a coherent theory there. Complacency with what SNA is
may not be the best way forward.

 

If we talk about a 'paradigm' it is the Network (thinking) paradigm which is
shared with the physicists, biologists, chemists and mathematicians,
electronic engineers, etc., and which comes with the assumptions of
interconnectedness and flow and attracts various methods of analysis.

I would not close off the discussion with any labels, as I believe, we need
to go beyond the SNA label and we need to identify what we share in our
'network research'. Personally I am looking for complementarities of methods
and theories.

 

Emanuela Todeva

  _____

From: Social Networks Discussion Forum on behalf of Steve Borgatti
Sent: Fri 06/01/2006 16:03
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: SNA is not a method

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

I think the name social network ANALYSIS is unfortunate. It helps focus
attention on the methodology, which is already salient because it is so
powerful but also so daunting to learn.

To my mind, network research constitutes a whole field of scientific
inquiry. It is distinguished first and foremost by the subject matter --
what we study -- which is networks. Thus, its data and therefore data
collection methods are unique. And with the dyadic data come distinctive
analytical methodologies, complete with concepts (e.g., paths) and measures
(e.g., centrality, density) and statistical models (e.g., ergm models), etc.
And finally, there is theory. Highly distinctive theory that matches the
distinctive phenomena being studied, and becomes a lens for understanding
many things. It is my contention that at least in organizational theory,
every major theoretical perspective today is fundamentally relational, a
huge shift from the individualist, actor attribute-based explanations that
dominated 50 years ago.

Steve.

Steve Borgatti
Professor & Chair, Organization Studies Dept.
Boston College
Tel: +1 978 456 7356; Fax: +1 978 456 7373
E-mail: [log in to unmask]

>-----Original Message-----
>From: Social Networks Discussion Forum [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On
>Behalf Of Dr. Timothy R. Huerta
>Sent: Thursday, January 05, 2006 4:06 PM
>To: [log in to unmask]
>Subject: Re: [SOCNET] SNA is not a method
>
>***** To join INSNA, visit http://www.insna.org *****
>
>Prosperous new years everyone!
>
>I've always thought of SNA more akin to statistics. Many would argue that
>statistics suffers from many of these same problems. It involves a set of
>tools used by many disciplines and as a result, doesn't really have a
>disciplinary home. Yes, I can hear this same conversation happening in that
>context.
>
>Is statistics, method? Yes. But is that all it is? No.
>
>Tim
>
>> From: "E.Todeva" <[log in to unmask]>
>> Reply-To: "E.Todeva" <[log in to unmask]>
>> Date: Thu, 5 Jan 2006 19:15:48 -0000
>> To: <[log in to unmask]>
>> Conversation: SNA is not a method
>> Subject: Re: SNA is not a method
>>
>> ***** To join INSNA, visit http://www.insna.org *****
>>
>> Dear Barry,
>>
>>
>>
>> Knowing the legacy of your contributions I understand why you would like
>to
>> defend this position. But maybe we need to re-think this.
>>
>>
>>
>> What about calling 'Network Analysis' a paradigm that incorporates:
>>
>> 'social network analysis' with
>>
>> 'business network analysis',
>>
>> 'actor-network theory', and other methods / approaches / methodologies
>for
>> network analysis.
>>
>>
>>
>> Can we go beyond interconnected human beings, to interconnected
>organisations
>> and business units, and even heterogeneous systems of interconnected
>people,
>> organisations, institutions, assets/resources, technological/cultural
>> artefacts... My social capital is not only my social contacts, and I
>hardly
>> could capitalise on all potential social contacts that I have through
>SOCNET
>> (for example).
>>
>>
>>
>> Emanuela Todeva
>>
>> University of Surrey, UK
>>
>> ________________________________
>>
>> From: Social Networks Discussion Forum on behalf of Barry Wellman
>> Sent: Thu 05/01/2006 18:15
>> To: [log in to unmask]
>> Subject: SNA is not a method
>>
>>
>>
>> ***** To join INSNA, visit http://www.insna.org *****
>>
>> Dear Sergio Romero (and others),
>>
>> Your homework assignment is to write 100 times:
>>
>> "Social Network Analysis is not 'a method' but a paradigm.
>> A way of looking at the social world and analyzing it."
>>
>> To see it as only a method is to miss the whole point of SNA.
>>
>> Barry, INSNA founder
>> _____________________________________________________________________
>>
>> Barry Wellman Professor of Sociology NetLab Director
>> wellman at chass.utoronto.ca http://www.chass.utoronto.ca/~wellman
>>
>> Centre for Urban & Community Studies University of Toronto
>> 455 Spadina Avenue Toronto Canada M5S 2G8 fax:+1-416-978-7162
>> To network is to live; to live is to network
>> _____________________________________________________________________
>>
>> _____________________________________________________________________
>> 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.
>
>_____________________________________________________________________
>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.


_____________________________________________________________________
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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