The NetLab Network

The NetLab Network

Dimitrina Dimitrova (York University, Canada) and Barry Wellman (NetLab Network, Canada)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 12
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2255-3.ch612
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Abstract

We discuss the NetLab Network – an interdisciplinary network studying the intersection of social networks, communication networks, and computer networks. It has developed since 2000 from an informal network of collaborators into a far flung virtual laboratory with members from across Canada and the United States as well as from Chile, Hungary, Israel, Japan, Norway, Portugal, and the United Kingdom. Connecting them is a shared sensibility of interpreting behavior from a social network perspective rather than seeing the world as composed of bounded groups, tree-like hierarchies, or aggregates of disconnected individuals. NetLab's researchers focus on the interplay between social and technological links, social capital in job searches and business settings, new media and community, internet and personal relations, social media, households, networked organizations, and knowledge transfer. NetLab has had two main achievements: first, its researchers make substantive contributions to the issues they study, and second, they demonstrate that this model of scholarly collaboration works.
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Guiding Principles

NetLab research has been informed by a set of guiding principles:

  • 1.

    The world is composed of networks, not groups. People function more as individuals connected via partial memberships in multiple networks and less as people embedded in tightly-bounded, densely-knit, settled groups.

  • 2.

    Many people meet their social, emotional, and economic needs by tapping into multiple, loosely knit networks of diverse associates rather than relying on tight connections to a relatively small number of core associates.

  • 3.

    The social structures people are in largely determine the operation of two-person relationships: it is sociology, not psychology. Ties are usually asymmetrically reciprocal, differing in content and intensity.

  • 4.

    Ties link network members indirectly as well as directly.

  • 5.

    Asymmetric ties and complex networks differentially distribute scarce resources.

  • 6.

    Information and communication technologies (ICTs) are usually extensions and enhancers of ongoing relationships. Few people have most of their ties in segregated virtual worlds.

  • 7.

    Households have become more networked, with ICTs keeping mobile spouses and their children in contact.

  • 8.

    At work, less-formal, fluctuating and specialized peer relationships are common, and the benefits of boss/subordinate hierarchical relationships are less obvious. The organization of work has become more spatially distributed, with ICTs connecting people, and appreciable numbers working at home full or part-time.

  • 9.

    As the dividing line between work and home has weakened, so has the more general boundary between the private and public spheres of life. In the less hierarchical and less bounded networked environment where expertise is more in dispute than in the past and where relationships are more tenuous, there is more uncertainty about whom and what information sources to trust.

  • 10.

    Social movements arise out of both existing social networks and more organized groups; they rarely are disconnected bunches of alienated individuals.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Triple Revolution: Social transformation comprised of: (a) the change in social networks from people being embedded in tightly bound groups to people being embedded in multiple partial network (aka networked individualism ); (b) proliferation of internet technology; and (c) spread of mobile technologies.

Community: Tightly bound groups of people with shared interests and values, common identity, and a sense of belonging. Current approaches treat communities as delineated by interaction and commitment (e.g. virtual communities) rather than by location (e.g. neighbourhoods).

Scholarly Networks: The networks of academics and researchers linked by one or more relations; such networks are increasingly becoming formalized, multi-disciplinary, geographically distributed, and reliant on technology.

Networked Workers: Rather than working in a single work group or independently from others, networked workers work in multiple, often distant, teams and projects.

Networked Organizations: Organizations where extensive use of computer networks and mobile technology is coupled with changes in group dynamics, communication, and authority.

Social Networks: A set of social actors - be they individuals, groups, organizations, or countries - and the relations among them.

Social Network Analysis (SNA): An interdisciplinary perspective which focuses on the patterns of relations among social actors and interprets these patterns as social structure.

Networked Individuals: Connected individuals embedded in multiple partial networks instead of than being members of dense tightly bound groups.

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