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Scot,

Your point is quite relevant, although I believe, that it is important to distinguish between

-the analyst - who identifies objects and decides to collect relational data about possible links between these objects and some subjects, 

... and

- the actors themselves particularly those subjects who interact with the objects (dogs, babies, trees... are they really objects???).

I don't think it is correct to substitute one with the other, and I don't think it is irrelevant to debate the essential nature of dogs, babies and trees - what kind of objects / subjects they are - so what types of interactions we may expect to find in the network. This is what I would call theorising about the actors and the relationships in a network. Substituting relationships with links between actors and substituting observations (or metaphors) with a well defined theoretical construct can cause all sorts of associative incorrect thinking, when one network analyst sees the 'doggy world' in the park, while another network analyst sees the park as a social context (or a stage) built with nature, engineering, design, and perhaps some capital and labour, so the actual design of the park facilitates the dog-owners not merely to walk their dogs, but to interact between themselves.

I think this discussion is quite an interesting exchange of ideas - which is different from exchange of references and technical information, and I don't think we should draw a credibility line here.

Emanuela Todeva

-----Original Message-----
From: Social Networks Discussion Forum [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Feld, Scott L
Sent: 21 April 2008 15:25
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: German shepherd and social networks

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Returning to the original question in this interesting discussion.....
(IS a german shepherd or a baby a member of one's network?)

Everything CAN belong to a network, because anything can be considered to be an object, and there are always some notions of relations (however vague and indirect) involving those objects. The question should always be how USEFUL it is to think of things in some particular way-- and that depends upon one's particular purpose.

I find it terribly ironic (albeit not unusual) that several pieces of the present discussion that are based upon severe criticism of essentialism (e.g. Latour) spend so much time debating the essential nature of things.

I personally often find general questions about what IS an actor, an object, a relation, THE network, a SOCIAL network, or even how one analyzes networks in general, to be more distracting than helpful.  I especially appreciate seeing people sharing their most useful examples of both substantive examples and tools in this and other threads.  

Scott

Scott Feld
Professor of Sociology
Purdue University



-----Original Message-----
From: Social Networks Discussion Forum [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of MARKKU LONKILA (SOSIO)
Sent: Thursday, April 17, 2008 4:50 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: [SOCNET] German shepherd and social networks

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Dear socnetters,

I want to stir the pot of social network definitions with a question about the notion of `social´ in social networks. Can a five-year-old German shepherd belong to one´s social network? How about a one-month- old baby? Compared to the dog, the small baby is clearly much less communicative and interactive. Moreover, the dog may well be as central to one´s `social´ life (e.g. though connecting the owner with other dog owners and dogs) than the network member with human dna...

Markku Lonkila



--
Markku Lonkila
Docent, PhD, Researcher
The Finnish Centre for East European Studies / Department of Sociology, University of Helsinki
homepage: http://www.valt.helsinki.fi/staff/lonkila
e-mail: [log in to unmask]

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_____________________________________________________________________
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