T h e o r i e s U s e d i n I S R e s e a r c h
S o c i a l N e t w o r k T h e o r y
|Theory Name||Social Network Theory|
|Alternate name(s)||Network theory, network analysis|
|Main dependent construct(s)/factor(s)||Node size, density, link strength|
|Main independent construct(s)/factor(s)||Nodes, links|
|Concise description of theory||
Social network theory views social relationships in terms of nodes and ties. Nodes are the individual actors within the networks, and ties are the relationships between the actors. There can be many kinds of ties between the nodes. In its most simple form, a social network is a map of all of the relevant ties between the nodes being studied. The network can also be used to determine the social capital of individual actors. These concepts are often displayed in a social network diagram, where nodes are the points and ties are the lines.
The power of social network theory stems from its difference from traditional sociological studies, which assume that it is the attributes of individual actors -- whether they are friendly or unfriendly, smart or dumb, etc. -- that matter. Social network theory produces an alternate view, where the attributes of individuals are less important than their relationships and ties with other actors within the network. This approach has turned out to be useful for explaining many real-world phenomena, but leaves less room for individual agency, the ability for individuals to influence their success, so much of it rests within the structure of their network.
Social networks have also been used to examine how companies interact
with each other, characterizing the many informal connections that link
executives together, as well as associations and connections between
individual employees at different companies. These networks provide ways for
companies to gather information, deter competition, and even collude in
setting prices or policies.
|Diagram/schematic of theory||Example of a social network map with nodes and
|Originating author(s)||Stanley Milgram: small worlds problem,
degrees of separation
Mark Granovetter: the strength of weak ties
J. Barnes: first to study social networks
|Seminal articles||Barnes, J. (1954). Class and Committees in a
Norwegian Island Parish. Human Relations, 7, 39-58.
Burkhardt, M.E. (1994). Social interaction effects following a technological change: a longitudinal investigation. Academy of Management Journal, 37, 869-898.
Burt, R.S. (1992). Structural holes: the social structure of competition. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Feeley, T.H., & Barnett, G.A. (1996). Predicting employee turnover from communication networks. Human Communication Research, 23, 370-387.
Freeman, L. C. (1979). Centrality in Social Networks: Conceptual clarification. Social Networks,1, 215-239.
Freeman, L.C., White, D.R., & Romney, A.K. (1992). Research methods in social network analysis. New Brunswick, NJ.: Transaction Publishers.
Granovetter, Mark;(1973)"The strength of weak ties"; The American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 78, No. 6., May 1973, pp 1360-1380
M.S. Granovetter., "The strength of weak ties: A network theory revisited," Social Structure and Network Analysis (P.V. Marsden and N. Lin, Eds.). Sage, Beverly Hills CA, 1982, pp. 105-130.
Haythornthwaite, C. (1996). Social network analysis: An approach and technique for the study of information exchange. Library and Information Science Research, 18, 323-342.
Ibarra, H., & Andrews, S. B. (1993). Power, social influence, and sense making: Effects of network centrality and proximity on employee perceptions. Administrative Science Quarterly, 38, 277-303.
Meyer, G.W. (1994). Social information processing and social networks: A test of social influence mechanisms. Human Relations, 47, 1013-1048.
Milgram, S. (1967) "The Small World Problem," Psychology Today, (May), pp. 60-67.
Monge, P.R., & Contractor, N.S. (2003). Theories of communication networks. New York: Oxford University Press.
Pollock, T.G., Whitbred, R.C., & Contractor, N. (2000). Social information processing and job characteristics: A simultaneous test of two theories with implications for job satisfaction. Human Communication Research, 26, 292-330.
Rice, R.E., & Richards, W.D. (1985). An overview of network analysis methods and programs. In: B. Dervin & M.J. Voight (Eds.), Progress in communication sciences (pp. 105-165). Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing Co.
Scott, J. (2000). Social Network Analysis: A handbook. Second edition. London: Sage.
Wasserman, S., and Faust, K. (1994). Social Network Analysis: Methods and Applications. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Watts, D. Small Worlds, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1999.
Watts, D., Strogatz, S. H. "Collective Dynamics of Small-World Networks," Nature (393), 1998, pp. 440-442.
|Originating area||Social psychology, Mathematical sociology, Psychometrics|
|Level of analysis||Individual, group, network|
|Links to WWW sites describing theory||
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_networking, Description of SNT
http://www.ccs.neu.edu/home/perrolle/archive/Ethier-SocialNetworks.html, Research paper on recent research in SNT
http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/encyclopedia/s/so/social_network.htm, Description of SNT
http://home.earthlink.net/~ckadushin/Texts/Basic%20Network%20Concepts.pdf, Book chapter on SNT
|Links from this theory to other theories||Actor Network Theory, General Systems Theory, Organizational knowledge creation|
|IS articles that use the theory||Baym, N.K. 1995. The emergence of community in
computer-mediated communication. In Cybersociety: Computer-Mediated
Communication and Community, ed. S.G. Jones, pp. 138-163. Thousand Oaks:
Burkhardt, M.E. & Brass, D.J. (1990). Changing patterns and patterns of change - The effects of a change in technology on social network structure and power. ASQ, 35(1), 104-127.
Chidambaram, L., & Bostrom, R. P. (1997a). Group development (I): A review & synthesis of developmental models. Group Decision & Negotiation, 6, 159-187.
Chidambaram, L., & Bostrom, R.P. (1997b). Group development (II): Implications for GSS research and practice. Group Decision & Negotiation, 6, 231-254.
Constant, D., Sproull, L., and Keisler, S. (1996). The kindness of strangers: The usefulness of weak ties for technical advice, Organization Science, 119-135.
G. DeSanctis and M.S. Poole, "Capturing the complexity in advanced technology use: Adaptive structuration theory," Organization Science 5(2), 1982, pp. 121-147.
M. Feldman, "Electronic mail and weak ties in organizations," Office: Technology and People, 3, 1987, pp. 83-101.
L. Freeman, "The impact of computer based communication on the social structure of an emerging scientific specialty," Social Networks 6, 1984, pp. 201-221.
L. Garton, C. Haythornthwaite, and B. Wellman,, "Studying online social networks," Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 3(1), 1997, http://22.214.171.124/jcmc/vol3/issue1/garton.html
C. Haythornthwaite, "Online personal networks," New Media and Society, 2(2), 2000, pp. 195-226.
C. Haythornthwaite, "Exploring multiplexity: Social network structures in a computer-supported distance learning class," The Information Society, forthcoming.
C. Haythornthwaite, M.M. Kazmer, J. Robins, and S. Shoemaker, "Community development among distance learners," Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 2000.
Greg Madey, Vincent Freeh, Renee Tynan “The Open Source Software Development Phenomenon: An Analysis Based On Social Network Theory”, AMCIS, 2002
L. Sproull, and S. Kiesler, "Reducing social context cues: Electronic mail in organizational computing," Management Science 32(11), 1986, pp. 1492-1512.
Sudweeks, F., M.L. Mclaughlin, and S. Rafaeli (Eds.), Network and Netplay. MIT Press, Cambridge MA, 1998.
J.B. Walther, "Relational aspects of computer-mediated communication," Organization Science, 6(2), 1995, pp. 186-203.
B. Wellman, J. Salaff, D. Dimitrova, L. Garton, M. Gulia, and C. Haythornthwaite "Computer networks as social networks," Annual Review of Sociology 22, 1996, pp. 213-238.
|Date last updated||September 9, 2005|
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