Natalie Yee and Rachel Eberius
Social networks are not just places where we post photos or share updates on our lives. They can be described more broadly to include a series of social interactions and personal relationships. We explored this other definition in class as it related to our work and personal interactions within the class.
To kick things off, we created a social network diagraph depicting the connections we had to different realms of study and to people in the class outside of our weekly discussions. The first part defined our field of study (as indicated by our initials) as one of the four disciplines we focus on in this class: natural sciences, geographical sciences, anthropological sciences, and sociological sciences. The position of our initials in relation to other boxes demonstrated the relatedness of our work to these other sciences. The second part connected lines from the person to either another discipline or another person in the class. The more we felt connected to said discipline or person in terms of frequency of communication and similarities in research goals and interests, the thicker the line would become.
We noticed a series of interesting patterns and trends that emerged from our class. One of the most notable trends was that many people found it difficult to identify as one discipline, as research and work becomes more interdisciplinary. No discipline remained completed isolated or contained within its own box.
Interestingly, natural sciences demonstrated the strongest ties with other natural scientists, whereas the people in other disciplines had more diverse connections. We derived that this may be due to the nature of the discipline. Anthropology, for example, intentionally tries to “break free” from its own bubble to reach a better and more rounded understanding of the situation.
Another pattern that emerged was the potential peer pressure to make links and justifications for those links. This involves the concept of reciprocity. The diagraph was drawn during class, so other people could see who had made connections with whom and why. One may have fabricated connections or stated a mutual or stronger connection than if the diagraph were done individually and presented later. There was also pressure for those that did not have many connections out of fear of being an outlier or marginalized. Hearing the justifications for these links (qualitative data) help to give an explanation to the quantitative data.
If the class were to make a social learning event, we concluded that we would want people to best represent the diversity of the class. We picked Suzi because she is far into her work and would represent the Annapolis sector. Another candidate would be Krystal because she is new this semester and therefore has a more fringe perspective with limited connections. We included David also because of his fringe perspective but from the geographical sciences side as opposed to Krystal’s natural sciences viewpoint. We wanted to include Christina because not only was she the only sociologist, but she felt connections to the other disciplines. Lastly, we wanted to have someone from the Eastern Shore represent the class to ensure that this perspective was not overshadowed. This grouping of people would bring together ideas from diverse epistemologies and research backgrounds.
This transitioned nicely into incorporating the establishment of stakeholders for a social learning experience. We discussed the value of two key components: the frequency of communication and the nature of the communication between stakeholders. A higher frequency of communication allows a deeper, more intimate understanding of someone’s epistemology and the reasoning behind it, while the nature of communication involves how effectively the information was communicated. We concluded that it is necessary to first establish a space where perspectives can be heard without judgment or “home field advantage”, or else discussing a “frequent” idea will have no impact.
Lastly, we attempted to return to a question that has persisted for the past few weeks: Do we let the issues choose the stakeholders or the stakeholders choose the issues? This problem was initially discussed when dealing with assessing the priority issues for report cards. Are the most important issues the ones that the stakeholders bring up? And what if there is an issue present that some stakeholders are not aware of/not concerned about? In a social network analysis context, this brings up the dilemma of which stakeholders would be most important to include to best represent issues that are not only relevant to stakeholders, but to bring to attention issues that may be overlooked.
Social networks go beyond your friend list on Facebook or the number of followers you have on Instagram. They represent connections to people and concepts not only based on the number of interactions, but on the profound understanding of what these interactions mean to you and how they have influenced your line of thinking.
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