Monthly Archives: May 2010

Copernican vs. Ptolemaic view of a social network..

Barry wellman argues that “Many analysts view social networks much as aliens might view the earth’s people: hovering above and observing the relationships linking all members of the population”. This is the Copernican view of an entire social system. And Barry Wellman continues “..whole network studies are not always feasible or analytically appropriate. Those who use them must define the boundaries of a population, compile a list of all members of this population , and collect a list of all the relationships (of the sort the analyst is interested in) among the members of the population.” After presenting this argument, Wellman declares his position: “Therefore many community network analysts … have concentrated on studying smaller personal (or ego-centered) networks defined from the stand point of focal persons: a sample of individuals at the centers of their own networks. Rather than showing the universe as it is viewed by an outside observer, personal network studies provide  Ptolemaic views of networks as they may be viewed by the individuals at their centers: the world we each see revolving around us.”

Although I understand and acknowledge the importance of a Ptolemaic view on a social network, which is more close to a psychologist, I don’t understand why Wellman, a sociologist, prefer this view over Copernican view, which I think is more “sociological” and as important as the “psychological” view. I think both ways of looking at a social network is very valuable and can answer to different, complementary research questions. I think in his effort to reject the term of community and recognize only social networks, Wellman adopts the Ptolemaic View. Copernican view results to the term of community, not necessarily locally determined, but to a clearly bounded group of people according to “a list of all the relationships (of the sort the analyst is interested in)…”, that is a kind of shared identity or common aim/challenge/interest. Wellman argues that a group is just a densely knit and tightly bounded type of social networks. He prefers to recognize these structures as special sub-clusters in a person’s personal network.


Solidary traditional community good, everything else disconnected and bad ???

According to Barry Wellman “most studies of social support have looked only at how different types of social relationships provide different kinds of social support… Yet social relationships do not exist in isolation but are embedded in social networks. A network is more than the sum of its ties because the composition and structure of a network can affect the resources to which network members have access and the ways in which social relationships operate.”

Community vs Network: towards Community Networks

Barry Wellman argues that the traditional approach of looking at communities as existing in localities, made the mistake of looking for community, a preeminently social phenomenon, in places, an inherently spatial phenomenon. However, I think that the locality or not-locality of a community determine in a unique way the qualitative characteristics of that community. You can’t leave your children unattended in a virtual community, as was happening in the community of a traditional village, where the fates of the members were closely interwoven and interdependent.

Barry Wellman equate community with social network. ‘The principle defining criterion for community is what people do for each other and not where they live“. He defines community as personal community, a person’s set of ties with friends and relatives, neighbors and workmates, which is actually the same as the social network of the person.
Barry Wellman is doing an interesting to me comment about SPSS: “The problem is that SPSS (with its companion, Statistical Analysis System) has gone from being a research tool to being a worldview — one that assumes that individuals, analytically isolated from each other, are the proper objects of  sociological study. The thrust of Social Network Analysis has been to reconnect the study of individuals to the relationships and the structures of relationships in which they are embedded.”

Sequential Analysis

Sequential Analysis as a research method is actually a pragmatic (not meaning) analysis of a dialogue, according to an aspect of the dialogue meaning as defined by a defined, mutually exclusive and exhaustive,  repertoire of utterances.