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Arbitrarily Combining the Social Network Approach with the Ethnographic Approach

Arbitrarily Combining the Social Network Approach with the Ethnographic Approach

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Published by Dr Steven McDermott
Arbitrarily Combining the Social Network Approach with the Ethnographic Approach

by Steven McDermott

Abstract

Simply combining the ethnographic approach to the structural approach of network analysis is said to be fraught with, at the same time, dangers and potentiality (Knox et al., 2006). Using hyper link analysis and textual data gathered during a situation on the Singapore blogosphere as a case study I ask, can a combination of the two create a ‘better’ picture or will it result in the metaphor being mistaken for the ‘real’ social structure? Lin et al. (2006) using the structural social network analysis approach have defined the Singapore blogosphere as a “community with no obvious central topic”, and stated that it was a rather closed network, or rather closed off from the wider global network of bloggers. The ethnographic approach tends to take a very different position arguing that “It is rarely that we find a community that is absolutely isolated, having no outside contact. At the present moment of history, the network of social relations spreads over the whole world, without any absolute solution of continuity anywhere (Radcliffe-Brown, 1940:224).” This paper addresses the inadequacies of using hyper link analysis or the ethnographic approach alone when uncovering online networks. Arbitrarily combining the two approaches will highlight the theoretical problems, benefits and limitations. Using a situation in 2006 I extracted a corpus of 29 blog posts. Using the social network approach I ask which blogs are the keyplayers? Using the ethnographic approach I ask what discourses and styles of discourse appear in the Singapore blogosphere?


Arbitrarily Combining the Social Network Approach with the Ethnographic Approach

by Steven McDermott

Abstract

Simply combining the ethnographic approach to the structural approach of network analysis is said to be fraught with, at the same time, dangers and potentiality (Knox et al., 2006). Using hyper link analysis and textual data gathered during a situation on the Singapore blogosphere as a case study I ask, can a combination of the two create a ‘better’ picture or will it result in the metaphor being mistaken for the ‘real’ social structure? Lin et al. (2006) using the structural social network analysis approach have defined the Singapore blogosphere as a “community with no obvious central topic”, and stated that it was a rather closed network, or rather closed off from the wider global network of bloggers. The ethnographic approach tends to take a very different position arguing that “It is rarely that we find a community that is absolutely isolated, having no outside contact. At the present moment of history, the network of social relations spreads over the whole world, without any absolute solution of continuity anywhere (Radcliffe-Brown, 1940:224).” This paper addresses the inadequacies of using hyper link analysis or the ethnographic approach alone when uncovering online networks. Arbitrarily combining the two approaches will highlight the theoretical problems, benefits and limitations. Using a situation in 2006 I extracted a corpus of 29 blog posts. Using the social network approach I ask which blogs are the keyplayers? Using the ethnographic approach I ask what discourses and styles of discourse appear in the Singapore blogosphere?


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Published by: Dr Steven McDermott on Jan 05, 2009
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