Tuesday, June 14, 2011
A Primer on Network Theory from Demography and the Imperial Public Sphere
If you are interested in networks, and like me are an historian who hates numbers, read this great post by M.H. Beals: Network Theory: You're Doing it Wrong. Beals provides a brief description of social network analysis (SNA) and an example of how it works by explaining her current project. She also provides a link to a slightly more detailed example of SNA here.
Network theory is a useful way of understanding migration. I have written about in here. Dr. Beals colleague would probably tell me I did it wrong too. I didn't use the in depth, multi-part analysis as suggested by SNA, but I did utilize the work of Mark Granovetter. You can read his 1973 article "The Strength of Weak Ties" here [PDF]. I attended a seminar on networks in the Atlantic World many years ago, and my discussion of Granovetter and weak ties was the hit of lunchtime conversation that day.
Since completing my research I have read Communication Networks: Toward a New Paradigm for Research by Everett Rogers and Lawrence Kincaid and Diffusion of Innovations by Rogers. Both were suggested to me by a colleague and I found them to be very instructive. On the suggestion of another colleague I read Nexus: Small Worlds and the Groundbreaking Theory of Networks by Mark Buchanan which is an excellent introduction to network concepts for a general audience.
Even if understanding migration patterns isn't your thing, understanding networks, which are primarily about communication, will provide new prospectives on how people connect with each other.
Image Credit GUESS and DarwinPeacock