Hi Markku
Interesting question.
The human child entails the prospect of full reciprocated, interactive relations.  In essence it holds the promise of social interaction.  As we ascribe some metaphysical attributes to our relationship with our offspring the tie from the parents side might be a very strong one (and the dependency tie from the side of the child even more so) and therefore a substantive one.  I would conceptualise this as a core periphery one where the child's external ties are brokered/filtered by the parents until in adolescence the child 'revolts' and builds ties unfettered by family brokerage.  Or maybe not so, for those boys still living with their mother at 35 :)
The dog is obviously a more intriguing relation.  The tie exists in the mind of the 'owner' so it could be considered subjectively real.  As a conduit between people the dog does not need to be considered a part of the network.  It is the activity of dog walking, owning etc that brings people together.  Similar to tea parties.  It is apparently true that Border Collies have vocabulary recognition similar to two year old babies but does that interaction imply a social tie?  I doubt that.  Sharing a dog's ownership between two people (the stronger and most unlikely case) could be seen as a choice of bonding rather than an act of bringing a dog into society.
I would argue that the most intriguing development of your argument is whether we can envisage building social ties with AI.  A rudimentary indication of that is that we become partial to artificial characters we create (see second life) or we game with.  But then again that says more about our need to develop ties (even if imaginary) rather than the real existence of such.  
My two cents worth
Dr Dimitris C Christopoulos
Senior Lecturer
Department of Politics
Coldharbour Lane
Bristol  BS16  1QY


From: Social Networks Discussion Forum on behalf of MARKKU LONKILA (SOSIO)
Sent: Thu 17/04/2008 09:49
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: 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
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