The angle I take up here is closely related to my thoughts on setting this blog up – on concerns of structure, pattern and content. In accordance of writing about findings and similar thoughts appearing, connectivity and the relevence of mapped relations I want connect to a blog PLSJ, which has its own points on it. I am just a frequent reader there and like its interesting developments in text and comments.
… My position assumes several points: first, that we have in fact moved from trying to enable communities to trying to enable networks; second, that community is best understood in qualitative and processual terms; and third, that networks are most often described in quantitative and structural terms. You can, of course, take issue with any of these assumptions, but for my purposes they stand.
And really my point is very simple: just because a site can connect you to a lot of people doesn’t mean that there is any value in those connections. (But neither does it mean there is no value.)
Social network analysis draws out structures and patterns, which is all well and good. But it doesn’t tell us what those patterns mean to the people involved, nor does it adequately express how relationships are highly contextual (i.e. shifting) and how meaning is actively constructed. I find it interesting and important that social network analysis is favoured in disciplines like economics and psychology, but not in disciplines like anthropology and sociology – arguably the only disciplines dedicated exclusively to the study of people’s social and cultural practices. There are several reasons for this, most related to paradigm shifts in social and cultural theory, away from structural explanation.