About ANSNA

The Australian Network for Social Network Analysis (ANSNA) aims to build greater coordination and collaboration among social network researchers and practitioners in Australia and overseas, and raise the profile of Australian social network research nationally and internationally. It is the national focal point for SNA in Australia, providing information about resources, connections, training in SNA, conferences, and more. ANSNA is endorsed by the International Network for Social Network Analysis (INSNA).

Two co-chairs of ANSNA serve as contact points to the SNA community in Australia. In 2018, these co-chairs are:

 
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Dr Petr Matous has been organising network interventions and network surveys in diverse communities across Asia and Africa to empirically elucidate the role of social networks in contexts constrained by limited resources or environmental disasters. Dr Matous applies novel statistical methods to these unique data sets to model the mechanisms of dynamic interactions between interpersonal or inter-organisational networks and their technological and natural environment.

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Robert Ackland is an Associate Professor in the School of Sociology at the Australian National University. His PhD was in economics, but since 2002 Robert has been conducting quantitative research into online social and organisational networks. He leads the Virtual Observatory for the Study of Online Networks Lab http://vosonlab.net and he created the VOSON software for hyperlink network construction and analysis (now commercially hosted by a company he founded) and co-created the SocialMediaLab R package for collecting networks and text from social media. Robert has been teaching ANU courses on the social science of the Internet and online research methods since 2008 and his book Web Social Science: Concepts, Data and Tools for Social Scientists in the Digital Age (SAGE) was published in 2013.

 

What is SNA and why use it?

What is SNA?

Borgatti and Halgin (2011) give us a good definition of a network:

A network consists of a set of actors or nodes along with a set of ties of a specified type (such as friendship) that link them. The ties interconnect through shared end points to form paths that indirectly link nodes that are not directly tied. The pattern of ties in a network yields a particular structure, and nodes occupy positions within this structure. Much of the theoretical wealth of network analysis consists of characterizing network structures (e.g., small-worldness) and node positions (e.g., centrality) and relating these to group and node outcomes. (Borgatti & Halgin, 2011, p. 2)

We can consider trains lines and stations as constituting a network. However, a social network is one which involves people in some way.

Network ties can be, for example, friendship, advice, trust, knowledge transfer, trade, and even bullying. Any type of relationship can be studied using SNA. Importantly, the more precise the network tie, the great the possibility for understanding the network. For example, looking at a network of ‘trusted advisors’ is likely to be more informative than a network of ‘people you know or consider to be an acquaintance’.

Network actors can be people, organisations, groups, countries, ideas, or some combination of these. Notably, actors can have attributes – for example (in the case of people) age, gender, nationalities, political views, motivations, and personality type. For organisations, attributes could be number of employees, turnover, geographic location, function, and so on.

 

Why use SNA?

Social Network Analysis (SNA) allows you to understand the ‘patterns and implications’ of social ties (Wasserman & Faust, 1994, p. 3). Why do actors form network ties to others? For instance, why do people in organisation go to others for advice? Are particular people more likely to be the ‘go-to’ people? If so, which ones, and what does this say about the organisation. Alternatively, how do network ties affect network actors? For example, does my position in an advice-seeking network have implications on my individual performance? Do people in brokerage positions perform better than others? Questions that have been asked using SNA include:

  • Is my organisation siloed or connected?
  • How do you transfer knowledge across global boundaries?
  • What sort of social support network protects against mental health issues?
  • How do informal networks influence the culture of teams?
  • Is obesity contagious?
  • How do school friends influence academic performance?
  • What is the role of network in the recruitment of directors on boards?
  • What does a highly functioning innovation start-up ecosystem look like?

 

Areas of application

SNA has been used within the disciplines of business and management, sociology, social psychology, health, innovation, education, criminology, political science and many more. SNA has been used to study formal and informal groups, organisations, communities, international trade and relations, amongst others.

 

Visualisation

‘A picture is worth a thousand words’ is an appropriate description for the value of network visualisations (see network below). Such visualisations give powerful information, such as whether the network is connected or not (this network is siloed)), whether ‘birds of a feather flock together’ (that is definitely the case here, different colours represent different groups of people), or whether there are key connectors or brokers who hold the network together (there are few of these in this network).

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However, sometimes networks are so ‘busy’ and have so many connections that is difficult simply to ‘see’ what is going on (left). In such cases, SNA offers a range of possibilities to use quantitative network metrics and statistical analyses to better understand what is happening in the network beyond what the naked eye can see.

Conferences

ASNAC

The Australian Social Network Analysis Conference (ASNAC) is held annually in November and is the key Australian conference for academics and practitioners interested in SNA. More information in regards to this years conference can be found above in the navigation field.

INSNA

Sunbelt is the premier conference for the International Network for Social Network Analysis (INSNA). INSNA are the peak professional body for social network scholars and practitioners. In 2018, Sunbelt will be held in Utrecht, The Netherlands.

Courses

MelNet Social Network Research Group holds Social Network Analysis 5-Day Course: Theory, Method and Application each year at Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne. The next course is in Feb 2018 at Swinburne. This course shows you how to conduct social network research, moving from the fundamentals of networks to the use of cutting-edge statistical models for social networks. Register here.

ACSPRI holds an Introduction to Social Network Research and Analysis to be held in Feb 2018.

ACSPRI also hols a Big Data Analysis for Social Scientists course. This course introduces you to the collection and analysis of socially-generated 'big data' using the R statistical software and Gephi network visualisation software. The focus is on programmatic approaches for collecting and analysing big data from social media and the WWW. The course will also provide an opportunity for you to learn how these data and techniques are already being used in social science research.

Software

There is a range of social network software packages out there, many of them free. Some focus more on network visualisation, and other focus more on network analytics and statistical analysis of networks. This is not a comprehensive list, but represents some commonly used packages.

Introductory reading list

The following represent some introductory reading into the area of social network analysis (SNA), though there are many others.

Interesting academic publications include:

Borgatti, S. P., & Halgin, D. S. (2011). On Network Theory. Organization Science, 22(5), 1168-1181. doi:10.1287/orsc.1100.0641

Borgatti, S. P., Mehra, A., Brass, D. J., & Labianca, G. (2009). Network Analysis in the Social Sciences. Science, 323(5916), 892-895.

Burt, R. S. (1992). Structural holes. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Granovetter, M. S. (1973). The Strength of Weak Ties. American Journal of Sociology, 78(6), 1360-1380.

Ibarra, H., & Andrews, S. B. (1993). Power, Social-Influence, and Sense Making - Effects of Network Centrality and Proximity on Employee Perceptions. Administrative Science Quarterly, 38(2), 277-303.

McPherson, M., Smith-Lovin, L., & Cook, J. M. (2001). Birds of a feather: Homophily in social networks. Annual Review of Sociology, 27, 415-444.

Wasserman, S., & Faust, K. (1994). Social network analysis: Methods and applications. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Members

There is no formal membership of ANSNA. However, below is a listing of groups in Australia who specialise in SNA.

MelNet (Swinburne node)

University of Sydney

Australian National University, VOSON Lab

Contact us to add your group here.

Mailing list

Join our mailing list and be informed of events, conferences, presentations, job vacancies, etc...