Understanding Social Networks: Theories, Concepts, and Findings

Kadushin, Charles
9780195379471 (pb)

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Cover of book This book starts with a useful introduction to the concept of networks and the history of such social interactions. It highlights the fact that many "urban Americans" are becoming more socially isolated, a term that Putnam (2000) calls "bowling alone". Understanding Social Networks, Theories, Concepts and Findings identifies the areas to which network analysis can be applied from train schedules to the HIV epidemic. The book is written from the perspective of a sociologist with a structural social science basis, taking into consideration people and their motives. There is a brief analysis of the major networking technologies - Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and the search engine Google from the research firm ComScore`s 2009 research in Digital Year in Review (page 5). The introduction also reminds the reader that networks can be used as information maps such as those used for marketing purposes.

Chapter 2 considers the basic network construction and the definition of dyads and triads. Dyads are pairs of people who come together; having a feedback loop, and propinquity or proximity both in the physical dimension and attitudinally are relevant factors in these relationships. Homophily (from the Greek love of the same) is also discussed, this identifies similarities in other areas for example age, race, gender, values, education and occupation. The need for reciprocity within most relationships is explored and its value with symmetrical and asymmetrical (for example doctor-patient) relationships. There is also the beginning of mathematical modelling or sociograms would be described by mathematicians as a graph . This term was coined by Jacob Moreno (1953 [Moreno 1943]) a major founder of modern network studies (page 15). These feature throughout the first half of the book and are an elegant way of visually displaying connections. These concepts are expanded throughout Chapter 3. Chapter 4 builds on the relationships within networks density, centrality and position; it continues to look at concepts such as segmentation, cliques and cohesion. The importance of psychology within networks begins in earnest in Chapter 5 with analysis of motivation, communities, support, affiliation, effectance and safety and the need to gain support from the individual`s environment. Effectance is defined as the "motivation to reach out beyond one`s current situation and comfort zone" (page 72). This leads on to safety, social support and the importance of trust within relationships. Trust is also vital for the stability of an individual`s reputation within a community. Small Groups, Leadership, and Social Networks are explored in Chapter 6. The work on small groups used in this book is now ten years old and by the author`s own admission may seem "out of fashion" (page 89). There is scope for further research in this area.

The concept of networks within organisations is discussed in Chapter 8. It defined the basic needs of any organization the motivation of the staff by organisational demands, the organisation`s decision about they need to achieve, and how the organization can meet these targets. The salient comment in the summary is that despite all of the research around organisations there is much that remains unknown and may be in the realms of secrecy. Chapter 8 discusses the Small World, Circles, and Communities. It highlights that the small world theory has practical implications for "cascades, diffusion and epidemics" which are examined further in Chapter 9.

"Networks as Social Capital" are examined in Chapter 10. The chapter on the "Ethical Dilemmas of Social Network Research" is the most powerful of the book and is a stark reminder of how this research should be guided by ethical principles which will give totally different results. This relates to the controversial American Tuskegee Syphilis study mentioned on page 186, where for 40 years poor African American men went untreated to maintain the study`s protocols despite the fact that penicillin (standard treatment for this disease) had been available since 1947. This study ran until 1972 by which time many people had been infected and died including the wives and children of these men. Today such research would be guided by The Belmont Report (National Commission 1979) and include Respect for Persons, Beneficence, and Justice (page 186), this forms the foundation for the Federal Human Subjects Code (Regulations 2010.)

Valerie G. Eslick
Bournemouth University


ComScore 2009, Digital Year in Review

MORENO, Jacob L. 1953. Who shall survive? Foundations of sociometry, group psychotherapy and sociodrama. New York; Beacon House [Originally published as Nervous and Mental Disease monograph58, Washington, DC., 1943.]

PUTNAM, Robert D. 2000 Bowling alone. The collapse and revival of American community. New York: Simon and Shuster.