Social Networks and Social Network Analysis

Posted on the 20 September 2020 by Francesco Lelli @francescolelli

Let’s have a look at social networks and at the underlining analysis that is guiding these dynamics known as “social network analysis”.

Let’s start from the beginning. Do you know what is the most popular social network? This video will give you the answer:

You may have guessed right. However, based on this video that you just saw, are you able to say something about how and why people connect, what are the implications of their connections, and how they communicate?What do they exchange in their communications? Let me introduce you to Graph theory.

A graph in this context is made up of vertices (also called nodes or points) which are connected by edges (also called links or lines).

Social Networks and Social Network Analysis

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This is a relatively unexplored branch of mathematics, and this video provides you with a more formal definition. Warning, it contains a fair bit of mathematics:

There are several applied usages of this theory that cover many aspects of our life. The discipline is known as social network analysis and it is the application of graph theory to the modelling and analysis of social systems such as

• Internet hyperlinks connections
• distribution of obesity among population
• spreading of a disease
• power strictures in an organization
• and many more

This video introduces the concept:

To give you a better idea of what we are talking about, if you are a Twitter user, you can see an example of a practical usage at this link:

If you are familiar with Python and you are searching some libraries, in the video below you can find an example of how to conduct a simple analysis. The author also made the code available in GitHub.

If you intend to take a more bird eye view and bring a business aspect into the equation, the Business Networks approach also follows Graph theory. Macro behavior and characteristics can be derived from a similar analysis. Some best practices will be introduced in Business Process Integration.

This is a small introduction of Social Networks and Social Network Analysis. However, it represents just the tip of the iceberg. In case the topic triggers your curiosity and you would like to know more, I summarized a collection of (scientific) resources in the following scientific paper: A Survey of Social Software Engineering.