Social Network

Social Network

Roby Muhamad (University of Indonesia, Indonesia)
Copyright: © 2012 |Pages: 17
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-0315-8.ch002
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Abstract

Social network concerns the study of the structure of the patterns of relations among social entities. The study of social networks has a long history starting around 1930s when psychologist Moreno conducted the first known sociometric survey. Since then, the field of social network, first developed in sociology, has grown both empirically and theoretically, especially toward the end of the last century. The advent of powerful computing power and the Internet spurred growth on social network research. This combination of the proliferation of digital traces and increases in computing power provides opportunities to study large scale social networks and relevant dynamics.
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Overview

The study of social networks has a long history going back to the 1930s. One of the first research was the study of friendship networks in a school (Moreno, 1934). A more ambitious agenda was initiated around 1950s when political scientist Ithiel de Sola Pool and mathematician Manfred Kochen launched a research agenda to study social networks; their work published much later in the first issue of the journal Social Networks (Pool & Kochen, 1978). Pool and Kochen realized that your friend’s acquaintances are as important as your friends themselves, especially in the political milieu as it was Pool’s main specialty. Thus, friendship networks largely determine access to political power. In particular, Pool and Kochen were interested in questioning how easy or how difficult individuals could find a social channel that connects them to the power holder. In other words, the question was “what’s the probability that two people from different social strata know each other?” The problem of finding political contacts and examining social stratifications can be grouped under one umbrella: the problem of social structure. By initiating this line of research, their goal was to find a way to quantify social structure.

Pool followed the premise that political influence has a positive correlation with the number of contacts one has (i.e., degree). Thus, according to Pool, to quantify a person’s political influence is to measure how many friends she has. Pool regarded this problem of determining the average degree of individuals as the main problem to solve. Because of limited techniques and computational power available at that time, this task has proven to be hard (for a current attempt to estimate acquaintances volume see McCormick, Salganik, Zheng, 2010).

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