Understanding Social Networks: Theories, Concepts, and Findings

By Charles Kadushin | Go to book overview
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Basic Network Concepts, Part III


Until this point, we have discussed whole networks in terms of their relationship to key network concepts such as density, centrality, and position. We learned that whole networks are held together as much by weak ties as they are by strong connections. One key idea is flow through networks. But we have thus far assumed that networks are in principle unbounded—that at least potentially, everything is connected with everything else. If the small world hypothesis has any validity, then in principle the entire world is connected as a network. True enough, but not practical. We cannot really understand social networks by looking at the entire world. Nations, communities, organizations, classrooms, even if connected with one another, have boundaries. What is true about one entity may not be true of another. We can look at institutional-sector networks such as the networks of banks and see that there are different clusters of banks and that they have clustered relationships with corporations (Eccles and Crane 1988; Mizruchi and Schwartz 1987). If we examine systems of government, the networks that compose them are clearly segmented and clustered (Higley et al. 1991; Laumann and Knoke 1987). In short, people, organizations, institutions, countries—any social unit one can imagine—are not uniformly related to one another but tend to come clustered into groups or sets. Furthermore, networks such as trade, diplomatic relations, and airline connections cross national boundaries. Every organization has relations with other organizations. Classrooms have relations that extend beyond the particular class (Moody 2001). One of the major tasks of network theory and analysis therefore is to


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Understanding Social Networks: Theories, Concepts, and Findings


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