Skip to main content
Wikispaces Classroom is now free, social, and easier than ever.
Try it today.
Concepts in Communication Studies
Pages and Files
How to Join
Rules and Policies
Tips and Tricks
List of All Entries
List of Contributors
Pages by discipline
Network, perhaps appropriately, is linked to a variety of origins. According to the Oxford English Online Dictionary (OED), network stems from the Dutch word
, and Swedish
. Its first use is from Exodus 38:4 and in
time, largely referred to work that uses intersecting sets of threads into net-like material objects. However, as society moved through
and urbanization, network began to expand its reference to include intangible concepts like parliamentary proceedings, commercial trade regions, and social relations (OED). As such, network is currently and usually thought of as a “web of connections which link objects, institutions, and/or people” (Webster, 2005, p. 239). Moreover, it was not until the mid-20th century that network was first used as a distinctive methodology of the social sciences and unique feature of social theory.
Network and Communication Research
Empirical research in the 20th century (for a detailed history, see Barabasi, 2003, p. 9-54; Scott, 2003, p. 7-37; Wasserman & Faust, 1994, p. 6-13) describe network as a set of nodes (the actors in a network) and links (the lines connecting actors together). This framework moves beyond methodological atomism commonly found in communication research by focusing on the relations between
(rather than attributes) and how
are embedded within network
(Wasserman & Faust, 1994, p.4).
scholars have typically focused on
as the relation between nodes and how these relations can explain phenomena relevant to different
subfields (Poole & Walther, 2002, p. 22). Classical
network research include Milgram’s (1967, p. 66-7) unconventional study showing the small
(a.k.a. six degrees of separation) of social networks and Granovetter’s (1973, p. 1369-73) work on the rich
opportunities of weak social ties. Following advances in social network analysis throughout the 20th century, many sub-areas of
have begun to utilize network methods.
Network and Interorganizational Communication
Perhaps the most popular area of
network research has been in
communication. This research “demonstrates that the patterns of relationships among actors are indispensable to understanding a wide range of organizational phenomena” (Kalleberg, Knoke, & Marsden, 1995, p. 3). In
, research into networks has historically focused on how networks and network
(Flap, Bulder, & Volker, 1998, p. 110-113). Examples of research include how intraorganizational
networks can become unstable (Danowski & Edison-Swift, 1985, p. 266), impact how managers handle conflict (Morrill, 1991, p. 888), and influence job-related opinions (Johanson, 2000, Table 2, p. 412). More recent work by Rank, Robins, and Pattison (2009) focused on how intraorganizational networks are structured and some of the mechanisms driving these configurations (p. 14-16). In a different vein, interorganizational communication typically uses network analysis to focus on how
are embedded in diverse
(Scott, 1987, p. 131). That is,
are usually the nodes and the relations are the
network research span such diverse areas as:
civil society movements (Doerfel & Taylor, 2004),
strategic firm alliances (Gulati & Higgins, 2003),
corporate manger professional networks (Chua et al., 2008),
diverse political organizations (Knoke, 1994),
non-governmental organizations (Atouba & Shumate, 2010; Shumate & Dewitt, 2008),
international telecommunication organizations (Kim & Barnett, 2000), and
the nation-state (Seungyoon et al., 2007).
An often cited attempt to explain interorganizational networks is Monge and Contractor’s (2003, p. 56, see Table 2.4) multitheoretical multilevel model (MTML), which summarizes different
networks according to different levels of analysis (actor, dyad, triad, and global) and variables. The variables can have endogenous attributes, referring to variables inside the network, and exogenous attributes, referring to characteristics and psychological variables of nodes. Thus, depending on the level of analysis and type of attribute, different motivations can explain the configuration of the network (or structural signatures) .
communication, network research typically focuses on the consequences of networks and how they affect health outcomes (i.e., Kana’Iaupuni’s et al., 2005, p. 1154, Table 3.). For instance, Pearson, Steglich, and Snijders (2006) show that adolescents were more likely to assimilate to the alcohol and
behaviors of adolescents in their
-communication network (p. 60, Table 4b, p. 61, Table 4c). Recently,
studies typically have focused on the overall network structure of mass
flows. For instance, Tsan-Kuo’s et al. (2009, p. 151, Figure 2) research shows the uneven distribution of international news website’s hyperlink networks.
Network: Theory and society
Instead of network as a set of interrelated nodes, network as a theory takes a much broader form, referring to social,
, political, economic processes and changes in the
. Perhaps the most influential social theorist applying network concepts is Manuel Castells, whose trilogy on the network society has been translated into 22
. Following the move from the Industrial Revolution towards the Information Technology Revolution, Castell’s (1996) basic argument is that networks, activated by
(p.69-76), are the new social
that make up society (p. 28-45). In the network society, Castells (2009) argues that
is the key source of
because it is only through
(p. 4-9 & p. 416-427). Similarly, Juris (2008) argues that networking through
structures has become a new cultural and political value and “model for reorganizing society as a whole” (p. 15). In a dissenting voice, van Dijk (1999) argues that Castell’s and others have mistaken the basic unit of the network society, which is still
and not society itself. What has only changed is how they are now linked by networks (p. 24). In a similar vein, Grewal (2008) posits a theory of network
in which diverse social, economic, political, cultural networks, by the sheer force of their size (p.31-35), can indirectly force i
to adopt their standards (p. 17-31) (e.g., the English
). Network is also associated with theories of structuralism in sociology (Wasserman & Faust, 1994, p. 14), which analyze individual statuses and positions in networks to explain social phenomena (Wellman & Berkowitz, 1988, p. 19-61; see also Friedkin, 1998). Finally, network is the foci of actor-network theory, which attempts to make sense of heterogeneous sociological networks, which include relations between tangible objects and
concepts (Latour, 2005, p. 21-26) .
Atouba, Y., & Shumate, M. (2010). Interorganizational Networking Patterns Among Development Organizations.
Journal of Communication, 60
Barabási, A.-L. (2003).
Linked: how everything is connected to everything else and what it means for business, science, and everyday life
. New York: Plume.
Bennett, T., Grossberg, L., Morris, M., & Williams, R. (2005).
New keywords: A revised vocabulary of culture and society.
Malden, Mass.: Blackwell Publishing.
Castells, M. (1996).
The rise of the network society
. Malden, Mass.: Blackwell Publishers.
Castells, M. (2009).
. Oxford: New York: Oxford University Press.
Chua, R. Y. J., Ingram, P., & Morris, M. (2008). From the Head and the Heart: Locating Cognition- And Affect-Based Trust in Managers' Professional Networks.
The Academy of Management Journal, 51
Danowski, J., & Edison-Swift, P. (1985). Crisis effects on intraorganizational computer-based communication.
Communication Research, 12
Doerfel, M. L., & Taylor, M. (2004). Network Dynamics of Interorganizational Cooperation: The Croatian Civil Society Movement.
Communication Monographs, 71
Flap, H., Bulder, B., & Volker, B. (1998). Intra-organizational networks and performance: A review.
Computational & Mathematical Organization Theory, 4
Friedkin, N.E. (1998).
A structural theory of social influence
. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Granovetter, M. (1973). The strength of weak ties.
American Journal of Sociology, 78
Grewal, D. S. (2008).
Network power: The social dynamics of globalization
. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Gulati, R., & Higgins, M. (2008). Which ties matter when? The contingent effects of interorganizational partnerships on IPO success.
Strategic Management Journal, 24
Johanson, J.-E. (2000). Intraorganizational Influence: Theoretical Clarification and Empirical Assessment of Intraorganizational Social Influence.
Management Communication, 13
Juris, J. (2008).
Networking futures: The movement against corporate globalization
. Durham: Duke University Press.
Kalleberg, A., Knoke, D., & Marsden, P. (1995). Interorganizational networks and the changing employment contract.
Kana'iaupuni, S. M., Donato, K. M., Thompson-Colon, T., & Stainback, M. (2005). Counting on Kin: Social Networks, Social Support, and Child Health Status.
Social Forces, 83
Kim, K., & Barnett, G. (2000). The structure of the international telecommunications regime in transition: A network analysis of international organizations.
International Relations, 26
Knoke, D. (1994).
Political networks: The structural perspective
. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Latour, B. (2005).
Reassembling the social: An introduction to actor-network-theory
. New York ; Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Milgram, S. (1967). The small world problem.
Psychology Today, 1
Monge, P. R., & Contractor, N. S. (2003).
Theories of communication networks.
Oxford: New York: Oxford University Press.
Morrill, C. (1991). Conflict Management, Honor, and Organizational Change.
American Journal of Sociology, 97
Poole, M.S., & Walther, J. (2002). Communication-ubiquitous, complex, consequential. Washington, DC:
National Communication Association.
Pearson, M., Steglich, C., & Snijders, T. (2006). Homophily and assimilation among sport-active adolescent substance users.
Rank, O., Robins, G., & Pattison, P. (2010). Structural Logic of Intraorganizational Networks.
Organization Science, 21
Scott, W.R. (1987). Conceptions of environment. In W.R. Scott (Eds),
Organizations: Rational, natural, and open system,
119-142. Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall Publishing.
Scott, J. (2000).
Social network analysis: A handbook
(2nd ed.). London: Sage.
Seungyoon, L., Monge, P., Bar, F., & Matei, S. A. (2007). The emergence of clusters in the global telecommunications network.
Journal of Communication, 57
Shumate, M., & Dewitt, L. (2008). The North/South divide in NGO hyperlink networks.
Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 13
Tsan-Kuo, C., Himelboim, I., & Dong, D. (2009). Open global networks, close international flows: World System and Political Economy of Hyperlinks in Cyberspace.
International Communication Gazette, 71
van Dijk, J. (1999). The one-dimensional network society of Manuel Castells.
New Media & Society, 1
(1), 127-138. doi: 10.1177/1461444899001001015
Wasserman, S., & Faust, K. (1994).
Social network analysis: Methods and applications
. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Webster, F. (2005). Network. In T. Bennett, L. Grossberg, M. Morris & R. Williams (Eds.),
New keywords: A revised vocabulary of culture and society
, 239-241. Malden, Mass.: Blackwell Publishing.
Wellman, B., & Berkowitz, S. D. (1988).
Social structures: A network approach.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
help on how to format text
Turn off "Getting Started"