Social interactions and social networks (Networks, Markets and Organizations)

Start: Aug. 27, 2009
End: Aug. 29, 2009
Place: The Netherlands
Organizer: Quantitative Methods in the Social Sciences
Social interactions and social networks

The study of social interactions, or social networks, is central to understanding the dynamics of the relations between social actors, as well as their behaviour and performance. Social actor as used here can refer to individuals, companies, associations, countries, etc. Basic to the study of social networks is the insight that a dyadic focus is not enough for understanding social interactions, but indirect ties, third party-effects, and other more complex patterns of ties between multiple actors have profound consequences for their behaviour. Furthermore, interactions between social actors lead to feedback patterns and phenomena that can be studied only longitudinally. Some examples of such patterns are peer relations between adolescents and the interrelation between peer networks and developments of lifestyle behaviour, social or antisocial behaviour, various health-related practices, etc.; cooperation and competition between employees in a work setting; ethnic relations and attitudes of individuals with respect to religious and ethnic groups; and strategic alliances between companies. The feedback patterns between interactions and attitudes or behaviour can in some cases lead to fast occurring changes in aggregate opinions, polarization, etc. The relevance of these topics to Europe is evident.

The focus on ties between actors distinguishes the methodology of social network analysis from other methodologies in the social sciences, both with respect to data collection, construction and measurement of variables, and data analysis. The standard assumption of independent cases is not adequate here. In the past years, important advances have been made, and are still being made, in the methodology of social network analysis. Computers play a central and multi-faceted role here: computer communication has revolutionary impacts on social interactions (chatting, computer-mediated friendships, discussion groups, email); the world-wide web has led to many new possibilities for data collection and has itself become an object of investigation; and computer-intensive analysis methods enable simulation-based studies of social networks that would earlier have been unthinkable. Moreover, there has been a growing and fruitful collaboration between substantive social scientists and methodologists/statisticians in the study of social networks.

The past two decades have witnessed a growing interest in the social foundations of economies, with “embeddedness of transactions” as an overarching notion upon which much of the theoretical framework is built and which guides much of the research. Since its start, social network analysis has played a crucial role in the advancement of this field. More recently, developments in social network methodology, in particular with regard to modelling the evolution and dynamics of social structures and exchange relations, have provided a significant new stimulus.

The major objective of the seminar is to bring together scholars from various social science disciplines tackling the interrelationship between networks, markets, and organizations. We cordially invite papers which make both a strong theoretical and empirical contribution to the literature. With regard to the theory, the papers should clearly specify social mechanisms behind network effects or models of network evolution. With empirical analysis, the papers can draw on a broad variety of research methods (experimental studies, survey research, ethnographic research, sociometric studies, agent-based models and simulations etc.).

Format: The seminar is small scale and participation will be limited to a maximum of 30 participants. At the moment, there is still room for several contributions.

Timeline:
- Abstracts (800 words) should be sent no later than May 25 to sociology.congress@rug.nl
- Notification by organizers about invitation to submit a paper: June 3
- Deadline for paper submission: August 3
(http://www.ccsr.ac.uk/qmss/seminars/2009-08-27/call.shtml)
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