Do you know if someone you know knows someone else you know?

This is a question that makes mapping networks tricky, if you go beyond everyone’s immediate links. When doing Net-Maps, we normally ask: “Who is involved in XY? How are they linked?” So our interview partners give us some information about their own links but also on the linkages between others.

Krackhard has coined the term “Cognitive Social Structures” for these kinds of perceived networks and proposes stacking the network perceptions of different interviewees on top of each other to get a more realistic view of the whole story.

My colleagues Noora Aberman and Klaus Droppelmann developed the idea of ranking the links with the following in mind: The more steps away from your immediate links something happens, the less sure can you be about it. So while adding the different networks up, links that involve the interview partner would have a heavier weight than those that are one step removed. The links one step removed would again have a greater weight than those two steps removed.

Does anyone know of a study where this approach has been tried? What do you think?

One Response

  1. Yes and no. When I read this post, at first I said to myself: “Yes, this would become Netmap 2.0, cool” but then, no, I don’t like the idea that there’s an external entity who arbitrary decides the weight of plausibility based on a mechanistic rule. To me this would be trying to push netmap in the territory of “quantitativism”, betraying the epistemology behind it. In fact, in my humble view, Netmap is an extraordinary tool for generating narratives amongst the actors of the ecosystem under study, and get a plausible and – possibly, but not necessarily – shared view of “things”. But using it as a way of depicting, of representing the “real reality of things”, and operationalise it as proposed above, hoping to get closer and closer to that “real reality”, would be to slide back in a neopositivist epistemology. I think the interviewer should use other, much more refined cues (paralinguistic, non-verbal, and the like) to decide whether this or that link is “convincing” or not, very much the same way a juror assesses whether a witness is reliable/sincere or not. Please leave maths and statistics out of all that: stories it’s all we have.

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