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Here's what John McCreery, anthropologist just posted on Savage Minds.

 Barry Wellman

Last week I attended my first Sunbelt conference, the annual meeting of
the International Network for Social Network Analysis (INSNA). My late-60s
graduate school training left me with the assumption that quantitative is
to qualitative research as hypothesis testing is to exploratory research.
Here I found people using quantitative methods as tools for exploring
social realities in a way highly complementary, in my view, to
ethnographic research. This meeting was both intellectually and socially
exhilarating. Why? Here is what I wrote on anthro-L.

First, the participants were an incredibly diverse group from multiple
countries and disciplines. That diversity, I have since learned, has
been a feature of the group since its inception.

Second, what Wellman wrote in 2000 was still very much in evidence in
2008: “Expectancy was in the air: a feeling that we were onto
something new and important, and that our time had come.” The
diversity that could very easily have shattered the meeting’s session
along national or disciplinary lines was offset by a shared vision,
that explicit, mathematical, modeling of networks of social (also
natural and semantic) relationships reveals something important about
the world neglected by conventional typological or purely narrative
theorizing. The original models were familiar to most of those
present, but little time or effort was devoted to defending them. I
saw a lot of extension and refinement instead of demoralizing,
destructive critique.

Third, these meetings were highly egalitarian in both mood and
practice. Wellman writes [2000] that, while forming the network,

“I tried to keep things loose and informal: I called it a ‘Network’
(instead of a ‘Society’ or ‘Association’), I styled myself
‘Coordinator’ rather than ‘President’ or ‘Chairman’ and Connections
was most definitely not a journal and much more than a newsletter.”
The focus was on “the express purpose of spreading news about research
and people.”

That spirit was still much in evidence. Graduate students, senior
scholars, government and corporate employees roamed the halls and
filled the sessions with spirited debate, notably unmarked by
deference to status. Technical discussions spilled out of sessions,
with a strong focus on “How exactly did you do that?”, how
data-collection issues were addressed, and which software was used. A
regular part of presentations were pointers to online sources for the
slides and other materials used. On the social side, there were no
private departmental or program parties restricted to those in the
know. The hospitality suite, with free booze flowing freely, was open
to all from 9:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. Special touches included the
distribution of program, abstracts, and a labeled version of the
T-shirt design (a network diagram of connections between the authors
presenting papers) on the 1-gigabyte flash memory sticks distributed
to every participant.

Diversity, shared vision, egalitarian give and take and a real sense
of community: Can anyone here point me to meetings with similar

  S.D. Clark Professor of Sociology, FRSC              NetLab Director
  Centre for Urban & Community Studies           University of Toronto
  455 Spadina Avenue          Room 418          Toronto Canada M5S 2G8            fax:+1-416-978-7162
  Updating history:
         Elvis wouldn't be singing "Return to Sender" these days

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