Social Network

Social networks express the ties between humans (and other organisms) that allow for interaction, and thus form a prerequisite for processes of social influence, e.g. sharing information or imposing norms. Ties between people cover multiple channels, e.g. physical meetings or on-line communication. Tie strength may differ over time (e.g., frequency of interaction). Social networks are emergent and self-organising complex systems originating from interaction (Barabási, 2002).

The pattern of ties connecting people can be studied using social network analysis, allowing for measuring typical network properties such as reciprocity in ties, centrality and connectivity of a person and clustering of (segments of) people (Newman et al, 2006).

Because empirical data on large social networks is hard to obtain, often stylized formalisations of social networks are used in agent based simulation models. These networks can be fixed, e.g. small world or scale free, or dynamic, e.g. based on similarity. Because the effects and evaluation of policies are often transmitted through social networks, it is important to consider potential network effects when developing policy.

Related terms: Social Media, Social Network Analysis (SNA)


    Barabási, Albert-László (2002), Linked: The New Science of Networks, Perseus Books Group

    Newman, Mark, Albert-László Barabási, and Duncan J. Watts. (2006), The Structure and Dynamics of Networks, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press


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