I love being a small fish

File:Barracuda with prey.jpg

When I work with people who know nothing about network analysis… (picture copyright Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary)

Next week I’ll be a very small fish – at the annual conference of the International Network of Social Network Analysis in Hamburg, Germany. In my daily life I am THE social networks expert, because all my colleagues have different areas of expertise. So I can be comfortable, relax and feel like a social networks barracuda. Most of the questions my colleagues ask I can answer and they wouldn’t even know if I made something up (just as I wouldn’t know if they did in their area of expertise).

But at the Sunbelt conference, different story. I am looking forward to listening to talks that will really really stretch my brain, even to the feeling of: “This is brilliant (I think…) but I have no idea what he is talking about and how you could apply this in the real world as I know it.” And, while it might not be the most pleasant feeling, I am also eager to have participants in my Net-Map training, listening to my talk, who can ask me the tougher questions, who can call me out and would know exactly if I don’t know the answer… I spend most of my time as an implementer and change agent, using network stuff where and as it works for me – but with the goal of changing the world, not of creating perfect data sets for scientific analysis. That means, often it’s more important that the results are delivered fast, that they matter, that they are understandable, than that they could be published in a peer reviewed journal. But it’s easy to use this as an excuse for being lazy, in your work or intellectually. And that’s why it is so good, every once in a while, to be a very small fish in a very big pond…

More realistic picture of my position in the Social Network Analysis food chain (picture copyright by Bernie Gunn)

4 Responses

  1. Good for you. I wish I could somehow get to contribute; but it doesn’t look like it.

  2. Hi Eva,

    I know it was a while ago now but what were your highlights or reflections from the INSNA conference? Were you plucked out of the water as you expected? I have an interest in the application of SNA in evaluation.

    Many thanks,

    • Hi Simon,
      Thanks for asking. It was an interesting experience. I think the qualitative and visual network analysts have, over the years, carved out a corner in the mainstream of SNA where we can sit and discuss and grow our approaches. So the audience at my talk was ready to hear the story instead of expecting highly fancied up math. So instead of throwing me out of the water, my talk was an opportunity to connect with people who think in similar directions. Maybe a bunch of little fish starting to form a school? I’d love to hear more about your interest in using SNA in evaluation…

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