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Hello all
A few months back I wrote about my intention of using a network approach to analyse peace negotiations in Colombia and got a lot of useful help from you people. Now the project has a more concrete frame and I have a whole new range of problems to deal with. Maybe some of you, specially those who work with policy networks can help me out again. 
Here some of my still unanswered questions:
 
By mixing a network oriented approach with some aspects of Rational Choice theory, I have come up with the following hypothesis I want to test:
 
"The higher the relative degree of centrality of a given actor within the network of a negotiation, the more influence that actor will have on the outcome of the negotiation."
 
My first quetion: Do you see any general problem with that hypothesis? (Given the structure of the data available I cannot include the factor of power within the network, so I'm forced to work with centrality).
 
Applied to my specific set of actors I've split the hypothesis as follows:
 
"When the political elite (government, president) has the highest relative degree of centrality in the network involving all actors present at the negotiations,  the outcome of the negotiations is likely to come very close to the prefrences of the political elite."
Considering the short term interests of incumbent political elites (usually based on their period in power), they will try to use their centrality within the network to push for an agreement as fast as possible, and not leave it to their successor.
 
The opposite shoould be true if the highest realtive degree of centrality falls on the opposite party at the negotiation table. Except that that party (in my case the guerrilla) is not bounded by a defined period and therefore probably has more of a middle term interest.
 
On the other hand, if the actor with the highest relative degree of centrality is some form of peace-committee, a body comprising agents form both (and more) parties, the negotiation is likely to last longer, and it will be more difficult to reach an agreement.
 
My second question: Do you see any logical errors in my assumptions?
Is it legitimate to combine the network approach with Rational Choice theory? (I found it rather difficult to formulate hypothesis directly form Network theory, especially when it is used as the independent variable).
 
 
Now the really tough questions: What type of relationships should I look at? I have given this a lot of thought and come to the conclusion that it should either be information-sharing relationships or cooperation. Are there any other options? (given that I have  no direct access to the actors themselves).
 
Which leads me to my final question: How legitimate is it to use the network approach when I don't have access to the actors involved? Can I try to reconstruct the network using printed material (literature, press material) and confirm the findings through the questioning of experts (mostly of the academic world) ?
 
 
Well that should cover the problems I have at the moment.
I know these are a lot of questions and some are pretty naive, but if you can find the time to adress them (and you are willing to find your way through my rather precariuos English) I would be very greatful.
 
With many thanks and kind regards
 
Stephan Kuster
Institute of Political Science
University of Zurich
 
p.s.: If you are still looking for a mythological character related to networks, how about Hydra? A creature of greek mythology, that had nine heads and lived in the sea. Killed by Herakles. She could grow back two heads for every one cut off. Could be seen as a poly-centric collective actor. Or a body conneting different heads.
Gustav Teubner used Hydra as a metaphor for Networks in 1992 in: Die vielköpfige Hydra: Netzwerke als kollektive Akteure höherer Ordnung, in: Krohn/Küppers (Eds.)(1992) Emergenz: Die Entstehung von Ordnung, Organisation und Bedeutung. Frankfurt a. M.