***** To join INSNA, visit http://www.insna.org ***** YL: > Dear all, > I am having a hard time understanding what really is a qualitative > social network or qualitative social network analysis. Can you show me > an example illustrating the differences between quantitative and > qualitative networks? > Much appreciated! Ryan: I agree wit Jeffrey Broadbent's note preceding this one. Something that follows may offer some other insight. Wasserstein & Faust (p. 29)assert that there are two types of variables that can be in network data, structural and composition. Compositions are measurements of vertice (they say "actor") attributes. Structural variables measure ties between pairs of actors. You might decide whether SNA is as "strongly typed" as this assertion suggests from your own perspective or you might take their assertion as an appropriate defining standard. If you largely accept the W&F characterization of SNA variables, then "qualitative" would probably be limited to a form of measurement used in SNA that is not quantitative, but that is used in very similar ways. By strongly typed, I mean that it follows strict category conventions. As you probably know, qualitative is often taken to be that which is not quantitative or statistical (e.g. in Strauss and Corbin 1998). That is probably a reasonable convention to apply here as well. The exact semantics are open to contention. There are various levels of acceptance for conventions in communities of various sorts, both formal and informal. There are now communities of primarily qualitative researchers who are part of association meetings, etc. So the legitimacy for inclusion in "SNA" is perhaps greater than it might have once been. For example, you might envision any number of networks that would measure qualitatively, say, a politician's dislike of other politicians on a scale that is descriptive (hate, dislike, love, adore) rather than digital scale of measure (scale of 1-10). That would be the most straightforward sort of example of a difference in measurement. But such an example is relatively trivial of course. As a matter of epistemology rather than SNA convention, some might argue that dichotomies like Quant and Qual create issues related to how categories are defined and who gets to define them. Such arguments can become emotionally charged and power can be applied to edit opinions or to coerce discipline or to force a discipline open. Consequently, you would get an argument from some that such terms (Quant and Qual) potentially obscure more than they illuminate because they are perspective-based or, to some, "political." Others would accept them as necessary conventions for practical action and exercise of tools. Still others might seem them as essential defining truths established as universal scientific categories rather than practical conventions. This last group would probably be relatively rare in today's academy in most fields including SNA. Again, you must decide how valuable conventions and norms are to you or whether you are coerced by a discipline (or openly choose) to be a disciple--one who follows the standards set of a discipline. If you are to be a disciple (an admittedly contentious word), or if standards and norms are quite valuable to your research for other reasons--e.g. membership in certain research communities of practice, approval of committees, etc., you will want to adopt general standards for your research like Wasserstein and Faust unless less conventional approaches are specifically allowed. Because quantitative measures allow set mathematics to be applied to graphs, they can yield results that may be easier to interpret or to summarize than more qualitative studies. This may aid in the usability of results (e.g. measures of centeredness) or in the discussion of such results. Qualitative networks may offer less succinct summaries and, thus, perhaps less actionable or interpretible results. On the plus side, their descriptions, while inherently descriptive, can offer a rich portrait of a complex topic that might enlighten certain complex or heuristic judgments about the same topic or a similar one referenced comparatively at some point. A book like Aihwa Ong's Flexible Citizenship is, to my mind, an example of a qualitative social network work that is at the fringe of what might be accepted as "SNA" by some within the SNA interest community. But that work is clearly not SNA in any form that would be conventional to the history of the topic, nor to most of its experts, nor based on SNA's defining texts (e.g. W&F). A classic hybrid work with perhaps more acceptance might be Claude Fischer's early work on communities around San Francisco. Whether the field is open to a broader definition of what might be reasonably discussed as "SNA" is of course a question for whatever may constitute the field. There are advantages to tight definitional limits, and advantages to broader inclusion. For now, there is a set of standard research conventions that emphasizes primarily quantitative networks and graph theory, and there are those researchers with primarily qualitative interests who may stand with less legitimacy given their tenure in the research area and the less summary nature of their results. However, they are Hope something here helps. Ryan Lanham _____________________________________________________________________ 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.