A social network is characterized by a social structure based on individuals or institutions called “nodes,” operated by some specialized forms of interdependency, for example, kinship, friendship, financial transactions, aversion, sexual relationships, or commonality of beliefs, knowledge or esteem.
Exploring a brief history of social network – an analysis
Pioneers of social networks during the late 1800s are Émile Durkheim and Ferdinand Tönnies. Tönnies held that social groups could exist as ‘personal and direct social ties’ that would either liaise with individuals sharing values and beliefs or formal, uncongenial, and effective social links.
Durkheim espoused a non-individualistic interpretation of social factors maintaining that social phenomena arose when interacting individuals signified a reality that could be no longer considered in terms of the traits of individual performers. He made a distinction between a conventional society, a sort of ‘mechanical cohesion’ that exists as long as individual differences are ignored, and the modern society, as an expression of “organic unification”, that shapes out of mutual assistance among individuals with distinctive outlook on life having roles of their own as unique persons.
After a brief pause in early years of the twentieth century, three major norms in social networking evolved. During the thirties, J.L. Moreno introduced the methodical recording and understanding of social interaction in small groups, particularly groups in class or workplace, whereas a Harvard based group supervised by W. Lloyd Warner and Elton Mayo probed into interpersonal relations in operation.
Social network analysis evolved over the course of the ‘kinship’ studies of Elizabeth Bott in England during the 1950s and the 1950s60s urbanization studies of the University of Manchester group of social scientists, focusing around Max Gluckman, and later J. Clyde Mitchell exploring community networks based in southern Africa, India and the United Kingdom.
Concomitantly, British anthropologist S.F. Nadel codified a theory of social structure that was influential in later network analysis. During 1960s70s, an increasing number of scholars endeavored to link different tracks and traditions. A dominant group was found centered around Harrison White and his students at Harvard University: Bonnie Erickson, Harriet Friedmann, Ivan Chase, Mark Granovetter, Nancy Howell, Joel Levine, Nicholas Mullins, John Padgett, Michael Schwartz and Barry Wellman.
Important in the early groups were Charles Tilly and Stanley Milgram, the former focused on networks in political sociology and social movements, while the latter developed the “six degrees of separation” thesis. Mark Granovetter and Barry Wellman are one of the former students of White who had elicited and publicized social network analysis.
In the 1970s, a ‘substantively-oriented University of Toronto sociology group’ emerged, based on early students of Harrison White: S.D. Berkowitz, Harriet Friedmann, Nancy Leslie Howard, Nancy Howell, Lorne Tepperman and Barry Wellman. The group also included the noted modeler and game theorist Anatol Rapoport. So far as relates the theory, it presented critic, ‘methodological individualism and group-based analyses’, debating that considering the world as a set of social networks could offer increased analytic force.