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What is "significant" to a relationship really depends on the basis of the
relationship -- for example a working relationship depends on maintaining
a lot of work-like relations: planning work, communicating about work,
going to meetings together, etc. On the other hand, a friend relationship
depends on quite different relations -- e.g., planning parties, going to
social gatherings together, exchanging confidences. Time, intensity,
multidimensionality can all take on different meanings according to the
type of tie.
        There is a lot of work out there on attributes of relationships
(start with Marsden & Campbell, 1984. Measuring tie strength. Social
Forces, 63, 482-501.) usually clustered under the topic of "tie strength".
But what relations should be measured for that strength is situation

        In most of my work I'm exploring what people do together so I can
get to the kinds of exchanges/interactions that matter to their
relationship. There are surprises. In data I am working on now, in looking
at interdisciplinary knowledge exchange, I found that more strategic
information -- e.g., how to get grants, how to deal with granting
agencies, how to manage a group, how to manage discussions -- are
'significant' relations when there is a status differential between the
actors. I was expecting to hear about knowledge exchange, but I hear
instead about career management.
        That work is still in progress, but 2 earlier studies address
multiplexity. In particular, these also address "media multiplexity" --
here and in others studies by Barry Wellman, we find the stronger the
tie, the more media you use to communicate.

        Haythornthwaite, C., & Wellman, B. (1998). Work, friendship, and
media use for information exchange in a networked organization. Journal of
the American Society for Information Science, 49(12), 1101-1114.

        Haythornthwaite, C. (2001). Exploring multiplexity: Social network
structures in a computer-supported distance learning class. The
Information Society, 17(3), 211-226.

        For those interested in the meaning of relations, this paper
combines results from a social network survey with qualitative interviews
from the same population (not nec. the same individuals).

Haythornthwaite, C. (2000). Online personal networks: Size, composition
and media use among distance learners. New Media and Society, 2(2),


PS. I'm also interested in hearing of any other work like this,
particularly anything exploring media/Internet use.

Caroline Haythornthwaite ([log in to unmask])
Associate Professor                                  phone: (217) 244-7453
Graduate School of Library and Information Science     fax: (217) 244-3302
Coordinator, Information Technology Studies Minor
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
501 East Daniel St., Champaign, IL 61820

On Wed, 25 Jun 2003, Dee Kramer wrote:

> Dear Graeme,
> You have really begun to make me think about what are the significant
> "attributes of a relationship/tie".
> I am thinking of a list that begins with:
> Time
> Intensity
> Multidimensional/ unidimensional
> I am sure there are others, and I will keep thinking. Do you have any
> others to add to the list?
> Dee
> Dee Kramer, MES, MSc, PhD.
> Knowledge Transfer
> Institute for Work & Health
> 481 University Ave., Suite 800
> Toronto, Ontario, M5G 2E9
> Tel: (416)927-2027, ext. 2146
> Fax: (416)927-4167
> Email: [log in to unmask]
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Graeme Larsen [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
> Sent: Monday, June 23, 2003 11:49 AM
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: evaluating networks qualitatively
> Catherine and other SOCNET colleagues,
> You ask what kind of attributes i am interested in.  Well i am unsure.
> Whiltst i accept 'how' communicaiton occurs in an informal network can
> be mapped and positions quantified by SNA, the only explaination for
> 'why' they occur this way is based around the SNA quantitative
> data/paradigm.  Regarding innovations, there are many attributes related
> to the innovation, cost, advantages, drivers behind it etc etc (Rogers
> early stuff) and the type of social system it is diffused into, interest
> rates, political system, level of competition etc etc.  This is before
> we start to consider elements concerning the actors, education, value
> systems, individual drivers etc.  If occurs to me that there are all
> these complementary 'softer' issues that actually contribute to the
> network which i want to include.
> I hope you can make sense of this.
> Kind regards
> Graeme Larsen
> Doctoral Researcher
> University of Reading

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