BUT now.... we are all online. I still work regularly with networks and communities. Social Network Analysis seems to be the Venn diagramming of the online world. I know Social Network Analysis (SNA) is a whole field producing all these impressive diagrams, but I've never done an SNA because somehow it seems complex and time-consuming. Somehow these graphs seems to have their attraction because they look scientific, however I think back to how the farmers discussed where to put a circle and wonder how 'right' the answers are.
To learn more about SNA as a tool I decided to do the Organisational Network Analysis course by Patti Anklam. Unfortunately this is an extremely boring e-learning course of the traditional 'listen and do the test' type. There is no interaction at all with the teacher or other participants. So we set up our own little group of 4 to discuss after each module. Tomorrow we'll talk and agreed to start writing some thoughts in a blogpost. So far the course explains how you can use SNA in organisations, how to design an SNA project, the network patterns and metrics and and tools for SNA (UCINET and netdraw are discussed). If you want to read Josien's blog on the same topic you can find it here.
Questions I have after the first 3 modules;
- Is it possible to do network analysis without collecting data by using social media connections? The course focusses on organisations and assumes you can invite people to respond to an online survey (or paper survey). Would it also be possible to analyze online social networks by for instance looking at Twitter links? In the book Netsmart by Howard Rheingold offers the example of analysis of people who participate in a Tweetchat using NodeXL software.What are examples of this kind of analysis (without collecting additional data).
- How much is the time invested in doing the SNA and does it justify the results in terms of surprises and new insights that would not have been possible to gain in other ways? After the first 3 modules I get the impression that if you know very well how to work with the software it should not be too time-consuming but learning the software will take some time.
- Would it be possible to make the process more participatory? The farmers used to have extensive discussions to visualise their reality in the Venn diagram. Would it be possible to do a SNA where you invite people to make their own models before presenting the diagrams and metrics that look so scientific that people may not dare to challenge them?