Philosophical and methodological issues

Paolo makes an interesting point below about the research philosophical issues you would run into by developing what he calls Net-Map 0.2. The fact that by rating links following a mechanical rule (depending on their distance to the interview partner) one does not necessarily get closer to meaning and that it might lead us into a well known dead end to try to look for “the” reality by adding everyone’s story up quantitatively.

Also, when I thought about it more, I realized that we might run into a number of “internal” methodological problems.

1. I don’t know of any SNA program or algorithm that deals with weighted links. So finally, if we wanted to analyze anything quantitatively, we’d have to decide on a cut-off point (define that only links of a certain weight and above will be included) – how would we decide on that and would it make sense?

2. And more importantly, the logic of a network flow can be completely turned around by leaving out one link. If you take a circular flow involving 6 actors. One of these flows is three steps removed from our interview partner so we decide that’s the cut-off point and remove that link. All of a sudden we don’t have a circle but a line with a beginning and end point. And Paul, who used to be an equal partner in the circle is an isolate all of a sudden… This is a simple example and easy to spot, but in complex networks there will be a lot of flows that don’t make sense any more if we remove one or two links just because they are too far away from the interview partner…

circle network.bmpline network

One Response

  1. Let me clarify my epistemological stance: reality is made of stories, narratives, and Netmap can be a great tool to generate meaningful narratives. When studying a human ecosystem my role model as a researcher is a private detective, not a chemical engineer, someone who looks for cues and elements to MAKE sense of the ‘reality’, very much the same way we accept that what comes out of a trial is “the truth” on what ‘really’ happened.
    The bit of information provided by someone merely passing by might well be more insightful than long hours of interview with the central actor.
    Would this still be scientific? It depends on who’s answering the question.

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