Introduction to Ethics & Social Responsibility

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Social Network Analysis (SNA)
including a tutorial on concepts and methods
Social Media – Dr. Giorgos Cheliotis ( Communications and New Media, National University of Singapore

Background: Network Analysis
SNA has its origins in both social science and in the broader fields of network analysis and graph theory Network analysis concerns itself with the formulation and solution of problems that have a network structure; such structure is usually captured in a graph (see the circled structure to the right) Graph theory provides a set of abstract concepts and methods for the analysis of graphs. These, in combination with other analytical tools and with methods developed specifically for the visualization and analysis of social (and other) networks, form the basis of what we call SNA methods. But SNA is not just a methodology; it is a unique perspective on how society functions. Instead of focusing on individuals and their attributes, or on macroscopic social structures, it centers on relations between individuals, groups, or social institutions 2

Newman et al, 2006

Newman et al, 2006

A very early example of network analysis comes from the city of Königsberg (now Kaliningrad). Famous mathematician Leonard Euler used a graph to prove that there is no path that crosses each of the city’s bridges only once (Newman et al, 2006).

CNM Social Media Module – Giorgos Cheliotis (

Background: Social Science
Studying society from a network perspective is to study individuals as embedded in a network of relations and seek explanations for social behavior in the structure of these networks rather than in the individuals alone. This ‘network perspective’ becomes increasingly relevant in a society that Manuel Castells has dubbed the network society. SNA has a long history in social science, although much of the work in advancing its methods has also come from mathematicians, physicists, biologists and computer scientists (because they too study networks of different types) The idea that networks of relations are important in social science is not new, but widespread availability of data and advances in computing and methodology have made it much easier now to apply SNA to a range of problems

Wellman, 1998

This is an early depiction of what we call an ‘ego’ network, i.e. a personal network. The graphic depicts varying tie strengths via concentric circles (Wellman, 1998) 3

CNM Social Media Module – Giorgos Cheliotis (

More examples from social science
These visualizations depict the flow of communications in an organization before and after the introduction of a content management system (Garton et al, 1997)

A visualization of US bloggers shows clearly how they tend to link predominantly to blogs supporting the same party, forming two distinct clusters (Adamic and Glance, 2005)


CNM Social Media Module – Giorgos Cheliotis (

Background: Other Domains
(Social) Network Analysis has found applications in many domains beyond social science, although the greatest advances have generally been in relation to the study of structures generated by humans Computer scientists for example have used (and even developed new) network analysis methods to study webpages, Internet traffic, information dissemination, etc. One example in life sciences is the use of network analysis to study food chains in different ecosystems Mathematicians and (theoretical) physicists usually focus on producing new and complex methods for the analysis of networks, that can be used by anyone, in any domain where networks are relevant 5

Broder et al, 2000

In this example researchers collected a very large amount of data on the links between web pages and found out that the Web consists of a core of densely inter-linked pages, while most other web pages either link to or are linked to from that core. It was one of the first such insights into...
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