A critical Social network analysis approach for archaeologists
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BRUGHMANS, T. (2011) Facebooking the past: a critical social network analysis approach for archaeology. CAAUK 2011 1-2 April 2011, University of Birmingham.
Facebook currently has over 500 million active users, only six years after its launch in 2004. The social networking website's viral spread and its direct influence on the everyday lives of its users troubles some and…
Facebook currently has over 500 million active users, only six years after its launch in 2004. The social networking website's viral spread and its direct influence on the everyday lives of its users troubles some and intrigues others. It derives its strength in popularity and influence through its ability to provide a digital medium for social relationships. This paper is not about Facebook at all. Rather, through this analogy the strength of relationships between people becomes apparent most dramatically. Undoubtedly social relationships were as crucial to stimulating human actions in the past as they are in the present. In fact, much of what we do as archaeologists aims at understanding such relationships. But how are they reflected in the material record? And do social network analysis techniques aimed at understanding such relationships help archaeologists understand past social relationships? This paper explores the assumptions and issues involved in applying a social network perspective in archaeology. It argues that the nature of archaeological data makes its application in archaeology fundamentally different from that in social and behavioural sciences. As a first step to solving the identified issues it will suggest an integrated approach using ego-networks, popular whole-network models, multiple networks and affiliation networks, in an analytical process that goes from method to phenomena and back again. Keywords: social network analysis, complex systems, social relationships, archaeological data critique, graph theory, archaeological networks