Network analysis is the study of social relations among a set of actors. It is a field of study -- a set of phenomena or data which we seek to understand.
In the process of working in this field, network researchers have developed a set of distinctive theoretical perspectives as well. Some of the hallmarks of these perspectives are:
- focus on relationships between actors rather than attributes of actors
- sense of interdependence: a molecular rather atomistic view
- structure affects substantive outcomes
- emergent effects
Network theory is sympathetic with systems theory and complexity theory.
Social networks is also characterized by a distinctive methodology encompassing techniques for collecting data, statistical analysis, visual representation, etc.
Social relations can be thought of as dyadic attributes. Whereas mainstream social science is concerned with monadic attributes (e.g., income, age, sex, etc.), network analysis is concerned with attributes of pairs of individuals, of which binary relations are the main kind. Some examples of dyadic attributes:
- Kinship: brother of, father of
- Social Roles: boss of, teacher of, friend of
- Affective: likes, respects, hates
- Cognitive: knows, views as similar
- Actions: talks to, has lunch with, attacks
- Flows: number of cars moving between
- Distance: number of miles between
- Co-occurrence: is in the same club as, has the same color hair as
- Mathematical: is two links removed from
1. Substantive effects of social network variables
- Attributes of ego network --> access to resources, mental/physical health
- Network closeness --> influence, diffusion
- Similarity of position --> similarity of risks, opportunities, outcomes
2. Substantive determinants of social network variables
- Personality --> centrality?
- Similarity --> friendship ties? (Homophily)
- Reduction of cognitive dissonance --> transitivity?
- Strategic "networking"
3. Network determinants of network variables
- Relationship between density and centrality