Understanding Social Networks: Theories, Concepts, and Findings

By Charles Kadushin | Go to book overview

2
Basic Network Concepts, Part I
INDIVIDUAL MEMBERS OF NETWORKS

Introduction

Social network theory is one of the few theories in social science that can be applied to a variety of levels of analysis from small groups to entire global systems. The same powerful concepts work with small groups, with organizations, nations, and international systems.

Chapters 2–4 introduce elementary network concepts, the “score-card” without which you cannot distinguish the players. In addition to defining the concepts, the chapters provide some flavor of how they are used and how they are linked to basic ideas about networks. This chapter introduces concepts concerning relations between the units that comprise a network. Chapter 3 discusses concepts that describe a network as a whole. Chapter 4 addresses where to draw the line—partitioning whole networks. We begin with a definition of a simple network that connects pairs or dyads. We conclude the chapter with a discussion of triads, the most elementary network in which the structure of the network really matters. For networks, dyads and triads are the analogue of molecules. Dyads and triads will give us a handle for understanding larger networks.

With dyads or pairs we are interested in why people come together—why they form a dyad in the first place. As with all network theory, we will see that a feedback loop is at the heart of network processes. There are forces such as propinquity—for example being in the same place at the same time—that bring people together; but at the same time, the dyad creates consequences for its members and for the whole network. People

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