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Current Research in Social Network Theory

Current Research in Social Network Theory



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Published by: Michael Cancejo Pagaduan on Jan 23, 2009
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Current Research in Social Network Theory
Jason Ethier
1 Introduction
In this paper I will discuss some of the most state of the art research being done inthe field of social network theory. I will briefly cover some of the technology and theory behind the research, but will mainly focus on the sociological implications. There are vastarrays of topics being studied in social network theory and this paper covers a range of the most important and interesting research. The study of social networks is importantsince it helps us to better understand how and why we interact with each other, as well ashow technology can alter this interaction. The field of social network theory has grownconsiderably during the past few years as advanced computing technology has opened thedoor for new research. Before delving into the current research, I will present a brief introduction to the foundations of social network theory.
1.1 Introduction to Social Network Theory
Social network theory is a branch of social science that applies to a wide range of human organizations, from small groups of people to entire nations. The term network refers to a set of objects, or nodes, and a mapping or description of the relationship between the objects. In the case of social networks, the objects refer to people or groupsof people. For example, a network might consist of a person and a mapping from that person to each of his or her friends and relatives. These mapping can be directional or bi-directional. An example of a directional mapping would be if person A liked person B, but person B did not like person A. This is a directional mapping from person A to personB. An example of a bi-directional mapping would be if person A and person B both likedeach other.One of the reasons social network theory is studied is that by understanding themappings connecting one individual to others, one can evaluate the social capital of thatindividual. “Social capital refers to the network position of the object or node andconsists of the ability to draw on the resources contained by members of the network”[1]. Basically the more mappings a person has in the social network and the moremappings these people have, the more knowledge, influence, and power the original person will control. Social capital can have a substantial influence on a person’s life;affecting such aspects as job searches and potential for promotions. Social networks can
also help sociologists identify primary groups and cliques. I will now discuss some of thecurrent research in the field of social network theory.
2 Social Network Theory and the Formation of Public Opinion
One of the questions researchers are working on is how social network theoriescan describe the formation of public opinions. Most researchers in this area areconcentrating on the political power of social networks. The question of how networksinfluence political agency and behavior is of tremendous theoretical and practical interest.These researchers believe that collective action, voting choices, and other methods of  political participation are controlled by social networks. They try to simulate collective processes of public opinion formation in order to better understand exactly how socialnetworks influence politics. Researchers have developed models of how opinion changesoccur in a network. “Actors increase their interest to participate in public processes if connected with others with higher interest levels who contribute and they decrease their interest if connected to others with a lower level who defect” [2]. In this way collectiveaction occurs only if there is a positive correlation between interest and power. Thus a population having differing levels of interest is found to have positive effects onincreasing the population’s potential for participation. Whereas populations in which allthe participants share the same level of interest tends to stifle political participation.Other researchers have developed a model of collective behavior in analogy to physical systems. In this model each actor possesses a strength factor of opinion and the probability of choosing an opinion is proportional to the number of actors who hold thatopinion. Thus the likelihood of a group coming to a certain consensus depends on thegroup distribution of opinion. These researchers study what conditions are necessary for agroup to change opinions and how this is dependent on the size of the group. They alsostudy a form of social automata in which actors interact only with those in their vicinityaccording to some well-defined rules. The goal is to study any group patterns that emergefrom this interaction according to fixed rules. What these researchers are most interestedin are abrupt state transitions from group consensus to near consensus to nonconsensuswithin well-ordered pockets of opinion [2].Citizen involvement in political institutions, and individual decision-makingabout voting and participation, is considered to depend on social psychological perceptions and beliefs, social forces impinging upon the citizen and social interactionsamong citizens. This suggests that there should be a relationship between socialconnectedness and political participation. A model of this behavior is one in whichindividuals are seen as parts of loosely knit, flexible networks in which informationtransmission occurs through political discussions. People form their opinions on the basisof the perceived quality of the information from individual discussions. This leads someresearchers to believe that the formation of public opinion is like collecting theconclusions of thousands of individuals serving on different juries. In this view there aremany small groups with a formed opinion, and there is much variance between theopinions of different groups. These differing small group opinions combine to form theoverall group opinion. Thus in order to win an election, a candidate’s supporters must
convince those with the most social capital within each small group in order to have the possibility of winning the support of the majority of small groups.
3 Construction of Reputation for Network Members
Social networks can be especially important in the construction of a person’sreputation. This is especially apparent in online marketplaces such as eBay. eBay is anexample of a large multi-user system where interpersonal communication betweenmembers is scarce. In systems such as this, it can be very difficult for members to build areputation without the aide of specific tools for this purpose. Reputation can be defined asthe common or general estimate of a person with respect to character or other qualities.This estimate is necessarily formed and updated over time with the help of differentsources of information. Sociologists have been studying how social networks can be usedto update and analyze trust and reputation. These studies show that it is possible to say alot about the behavior of individuals using the information obtained from the analysis of their social networks.
3.1 Application to E-Commerce Communities
Researchers have created a model to describe how reputation is determined in ane-commerce community. Their model considers three types of relationships betweencommunity members. These relationships are competition, cooperation, and trade.Competition is the type of relation found between two or more members that pursue thesame goals and need the same scarce resources. Competition generally has a negativeimpact on the reputations of those involved. Cooperation implies significant exchange of sincere information between the members and some form of predisposition to help eachother. Cooperation tends to improve the reputations of members who participate. Tradereflects the existence of commercial transactions between two agents and is compatiblewith either cooperative or competitive relations. Trade generally helps a membersreputation but can also hurt it. This model also uses three types of social reputationdepending on the information source. These are witness, neighborhood, and systemreputations. Witness reputation is based on the information about a member coming fromother members who share a relationship with that member. Neighborhood reputation usesthe social environment of the member, that is, the neighbors of the member and their relations with it. System reputation is a default reputation value based on the relations themember is currently engaged in and has belonged to in the past. For example, thosemembers who have consistent competition relationships will receive a negative systemreputation value [3].The use of the social network analysis techniques as part of a reputation systemopens a new field for experimentation. Once you introduce the social dimension inreputation evaluation and the members start to take into account social relations, it becomes more and more important to consider not only which is the reputation of theother members, but also what can a member do to get and maintain a good reputation.Efficient methods of evaluating reputations can lead to more hospitable relations amongmembers of the community. Users may be less inclined to enter competitive relations

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Hi, I read through your research paper and it is relevant to what i'm doing on social network, am I able to get a copy of this paper with references please? Thanks
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