It¡¯s now the fashion to use the network analysis in social sciences. Originated from sociology, it¡¯s easy to find the term of network in top class journals like ¡®Strategic Management Journal¡¯ or ¡®Research Policy¡¯. Alas, there are not many primers available on the market, however. It¡¯s a weird thing. Without some decent introduction, you can¡¯t read even a piece of article which comes out in ¡®Social Networks¡¯, the official journal of network analysis field. The network analysis might be the only sociological methodology which attains the level of economics in terms of the mathematical modeling. Almost all articles adopting network analysis tell the forms and contents of network in number. They use the dedicated applications, such as Ucinet or Structure, to compute and plot the networks, and test hypotheses. In doing so, they deploy idiosyncratic terminology which would baffles uninitiated novices. There are some textbooks like Wasserman and et al¡¯s ¡®Social Network Analysis : Methods and Applications¡¯ or Scott¡¯s ¡®Social Network Analysis: A Handbook¡¯. But they are dry and boring: terse description with no enlightening examples. In this regard this book is the absolute savior. This book has two strong features:
1. A plethora of example: textbook is expected to introduce neophyte to utterly unknown field. Writer should not assume the reader would have read or even hear of any part of the field. Of course, it¡¯s a daunting task. But there is some usual prescription: explain with real world examples. This book is full of examples from real field works done in France and America. Even if you can¡¯t figure out what the hell of that explanation of term, like multiplexity, equivalence, or centrality, at all, you can easily grasp the meaning and applicability of the term through lengthy examples from various researches.
2. Systematic organizing: The network analysis is not confined to drawing out the network structure (or graph). The real focus is always directed to the contents of the networks: What resources are flowing through the network? How is the community or clique structured? What is the impact of network position of individual node in that structure on the member¡¯s behavior? To answer these questions, researcher, first, should map out the network structure. Ch.1 to 4 deals with the form of network (or, in the words of network analysis, network structure). And ch.5 to 8 tackles what kind of contents is expected in the network and how to evaluate them. With following chapter by chapter, you can capture how the network analysis could map out the social world and interpret it with not much difficulty. Network analysis is proposed not mere research methodology, but now the general theory of social world. So they prefer the term of structural analysis to the word of network analysis: they attempt to solve the dichotomy between the society and individual, or between integration and conflict with their own image of social world. After the fall of functionalism, a bunch of theorist has come and gone with bold claims that they have the answer to the conundrum. Such big names of Giddens and Bourdieu are the good example. Giddens¡¯ structuration theory gained popularity in this regard. But it has waned away. The problem is this: theoretical framework of structuration theory is gorgeous. But there is no key to where one should start the research at the real field. For example, the concept of power plays the organizing role in his grandiose framework to integrate all fragments he collected from various sources. The resulting profile is lovely and glowing. But the concept is too plastic or at worse elusive, when it comes to real work. Nobody would reject his conception of duality. But it¡¯s easier to be said than done in research. It¡¯s no more than eclectic artifice. Here comes the structural analysis. I think the theoretical position of structural analysis is fully compatible with Giddens¡¯ (for example Nan Lin¡¯s theoretical architecture). But it¡¯s more than that: it provides us with the unit of analysis, the network. This book is not displaying the level of theoretical sophistication of Nan Lin¡¯s. But you could capture what the picture of social world the structural analysis would depict. This book is carefully constructed to introduce the reader to the social world the structural analysis depicts in the incremental cascading from personal network to total network, to network position, to power to global dynamic of total network.