Social network

From Academic Kids

A social network is a map of the relationships between individuals, indicating the ways in which they are connected through various social familiarities ranging from casual acquaintance to close familial bonds. The term was first coined in 1954 by J. A. Barnes (in: Class and Committees in a Norwegian Island Parish, "Human Relations").

The social network analysis (also sometimes called network theory) has emerged as a key technique in modern sociology, anthropology, Social Psychology and organizational studies, as well as a popular topic of speculation and study. Research in a number of academic fields have demonstrated that social networks operate on many levels, from families up to the level of nations, and play a critical role in determining the way problems are solved, organizations are run, and the degree to which individuals succeed in achieving their goals.

Social networking also refers to a category of Internet applications to help connect friends, business partners, or other individuals together using a variety of tools. These applications are covered under Internet social networks below, and in the external links at the end of the article.


Introduction to social networks

Missing image
An example of a social network diagram

Social network theory views social relationships in terms of nodes and ties. Nodes are the individual actors within the networks, and ties are the relationships between the actors. There can be many kinds of ties between the nodes. In its most simple form, a social network is a map of all of the relevant ties between the nodes being studied. The network can also be used to determine the social capital of individual actors. These concepts are often displayed in a social network diagram, where nodes are the points and ties are the lines.

The shape of the social network helps determine a network's usefulness to its individuals. Smaller, tighter networks can be less useful to their members than networks with lots of loose connections (weak ties) to individuals outside the main network. More "open" networks, with many weak ties and social connections, are more likely to introduce new ideas and opportunities to their members than closed networks with many redundant ties. In other words, a group of friends who only do things with each other already share the same knowledge and opportunities. A group of individuals with connections to other social worlds is likely to have access to a wider range of information. It is better for individual success to have connections to a variety of networks rather than many connections within a single network. Similarly, individuals can exercise influence or act as brokers within their social networks by bridging two networks that are not directly linked (called filling social holes).

The power of social network theory stems from its difference from traditional sociological studies, which assume that it is the attributes of individual actors -- whether they are friendly or unfriendly, smart or dumb, etc. -- that matter. Social network theory produces an alternate view, where the attributes of individuals are less important than their relationships and ties with other actors within the network. This approach has turned out to be useful for explaining many real-world phenomena, but leaves less room for individual agency, the ability for individuals to influence their success, so much of it rests within the structure of their network.

Social networks have also been used to examine how companies interact with each other, characterizing the many informal connections that link executives together, as well as associations and connections between individual employees at different companies. These networks provide ways for companies to gather information, deter competition, and even collude in setting prices or policies.

Applications of social network theory

Applications in social science

Social network theory in the social sciences began with the urbanization studies of the "Manchester School" (centered around Max Gluckman), done mainly in Zambia during the 1960s. It was followed up with the field of sociometry, an attempt to quantify social relationships. Scholars such as Mark Granovetter expanded the use of social networks, and they are now used to help explain many different real-life phenomena in the social sciences. Power within organizations, for example, has been found to come more from the degree to which an individual within a network is at the center of many relationships than actual job title. Social networks also play a key role in hiring, in business success for firms, and in job performance.

Social network theory is an extremely active field within academia. The International Network for Social Network Analysis ( is an academic association of social network analysts. Many social network tools for scholarly work are available online (like "UCINet" ( and are relatively easy to use to present graphical images of networks.

Diffusion of innovations theory explores social networks and their role in influencing the spread of new ideas and practices. Change agents and opinion leaders often play major roles in spurring the adoption of innovations, although factors inherent to the innovations also play a role.

Popular applications

The so-called rule of 150 states that the size of a genuine social network is limited to about 150 members (sometimes called the Dunbar Number ( The rule arises from cross-cultural studies in sociology and especially anthropology of the maximum size of a village (in modern parlance most reasonably understood as an ecovillage). It is theorized in evolutionary psychology that the number may be some kind of limit of average human ability to recognize members and track emotional facts about all members of a group. However, it may be due to economics and the need to track "free riders", as larger groups tend to be easier for cheats and liars to prosper in.

Degrees of Separation and the Global Social Network

The small world phenomenon is the hypothesis that the chain of social acquaintances required to connect one arbitrary person to another arbitrary person anywhere in the world is generally short. The concept gave rise to the famous phrase six degrees of separation after a 1967 small world experiment by psychologist Stanley Milgram which found that two random US citizens were connected by an average of six acquaintances. Current internet experiments continue to explore this phenomenon, including the Ohio State Electronic Small World Project ( and Columbia's Small World Project ( As of 2005, these experiments confirm that about five to seven degrees of separation are sufficient for connecting any two people through the internet.

Internet social networks

Websites promoting the Circle of Friends online social networks started appearing in 2002 when the term was used to describe the means of networking in virtual communities and became popular in 2003 with the advent of websites such as Friendster, and LinkedIn. There are over 200 social networking sites, though Friendster is one of the most successful at using the Circle of Friends technique. The popularity of these sites rapidly grew, and major companies have entered the Internet social networking space. For example, Google launched orkut on 22 January 2004.

In these communities, an initial set of founders sends out messages inviting members of their own personal networks to join the site. New members repeat the process, growing the total number of members and links in the network. Sites then offer features such as automatic address book updates, viewable profiles, the ability to form new links through "introduction services," and other forms of online social connections. Social networks can also be organized around business connections, as for example in the case of ReferNet or Shortcut.

Blended networking is an approach to social networking that blends offline and online elements together to create a blend. A human social network is blended if it supported by both face-to-face events and an online community. The two elements of the blend support one another. See also Social computing.

See also

External links

Examples of Internet social networking systems, otherwise known as YASNS

Please note that these external links may lead to commercial services.

  • 24eyes ( — an online RSS Dashboard that combines news aggregation with news sharing, publishing and tagging.
  • academici ( — global online social network for research and higher education.
  • aroundme ( — GNU/GPL free social networking and group collaboration software.
  • The ArtBoom ( — an on-going family tree of the art world started by Yucef Merhi in 1999 using the prototype of the first wristwatch-camera.
  • AudioScrobbler ( — An open source social networking website and application that deals solely with music.
  • ( — A social network in Portuguese.
  • Business Partnerships Canada ( — A Canadian social network for entrepreneurs.
  • ( — A social network designed by college students for college students.
  • BuddyBuzz ( — Created by the Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab, BuddyBuzz combines a reading club (people who rate content) with mobility (you read text from the screen of your mobile phone).
  • ( — A social networking and dating service (email, chat, video).
  • ( — A social networking service that allows you to create personal, professional, and private networks (photos, blogs, calendar, chat, instant messenger, personal web page, file space).
  • Connection Pipeline ( — social networking site for business and technology professionals.
  • CityVox ( — the French take up the Scandinavian challenge with this multilingual city guide. They recently added a community feature.
  • Check Your Network First ( — a combination of social networking, trust and asset sharing to enable the creation of controlled-access libraries.
  • ( — Social bookmark manager
  • Desihub ( — indian social networking and community building site
  • Doostang ( — "trusted professional" network with job postings.
  • Ecademy ( — international business to business social network with high levels of user driven content (blogs, articles, and affinity groups/clubs).
  • eConozco ( — Social Networking for spanish speaking professionals (Spain and Latin America).
  • eGrupos ( — Integrates social networking tools with email groups/mailing lists (calendar, events, polls, etc.) as well as auctions.
  • Eventbee ( — Event social networking
  • Flight Club ( — Air Travel and Airport Social Networking
  • Friends in the City ( — London Social Network
  • Friendster ( — a social networking website. (Wikipedia article on Friendster)
  • ( — socially networked blogs, moblogs, bookmarks, rating, and photos.
  • ( — socially networked blogs, or FriendBlogs that connect posts made by users.
  • ( — keep in touch with friends and family and share your "life" with Canada's Social Networking web site
  • Global Pau Hana ( — social networking for people from Hawaii provided in partnership with State of Hawaii Department of Economic Development, based on the Hawaiian concept of Pau hana.
  • Gazzag ( — Social network available in English, Spanish, French, German and Portuguese.
  • GoodNotes ( — Opensource browser extension to share bookmarks and annotations between students and teachers.
  • Headless Hunter Referral Marketplace ( — a site that uses social networking for recruiting purposes.
  • hi5 (
  • ( — a student operated social network at Indiana University.
  • Huminity ( — a social networking downloadable client (Microsoft Windows only).
  • icelounge ( — a social networking site created for the skateboarding community.
  • ( — find local services like contractors, lawyers, doctors, etc. by searching customer reviews.
  • introNetworks (
  • Judy's Book ( — socially networked recommendations, reviews, articles and advice.
  • kibop ( — Social networking for Hispanics worldwide, in English, Spanish and Portuguese.
  • Lightstalkers ( — networking for photographers and media professionals
  • Linkedin ( — a professional social networking website.
  • LiveJournal ( — online journal which links users through friends lists
  • London Networking EXPO ( — The London Networking EXPO is a quarterly event that provides a social framework for individuals to expand their network of contacts.
  • Meetro ( — a hybrid chat software / social network focused on meeting people immediately within a given physical radius.
  • Meetup ( — an online portal that facilitates offline group meetings in various localities around the world.
  • Multiply ( — Web publishing (photo albums, blogs, calendar) combined with social network-based messaging.
  • Moleskiing ( — a community site (in Italian) where users can keep a blog about their ski mountaineering trips on Northern Italian mountains.
  • ( — organizing events for the 21 to 40 crowd.
  • Muvuca ( — a social networking website for Brazilians.
  • ( — An online social network, matrimonial and classified website.
  • Myspace ( — a social networking website. (Wikipedia article on Myspace)
  • Neatvibe ( — a social network with a community confessions forum.
  • NetModular ( — Blogworking and social software provider.
  • NetQI ( — Brazilian social and business networking site.
  • ( — Business networking site for Austin, Texas.
  • ( — Business Networking site for Spanish speaking professionals (Spain & Latin America).
  • .node ( — a worldwide network without any language restrictions.
  • Oodalay ( — a online social discovery community connecting people through shared networks of friends.
  • Open Business Club ( — a multilingual social and business network supporting English, German, Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, Swedish, Finnish, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Polish, Hungarian and Turkish.
  • Orkut ( — an online community that connects people through a network of trusted friends.
  • Parchepinga ( — Colombians and Latinos Online Social Networking.
  • Peer Factors ( — A social networking to help you search for your true peers.
  • Plate.State ( — Anyone. Anywhere. Anytime. License Plate based social network.
  • PLATESTER (http://www.platester.Com) — A License Plate Based Online Social Networking Community.
  • ReferNet ( — a business networking community for entrepreneurs and service vertical industries (i.e. real estate, insurance, financial services, service providers, etc.).
  • Relationship Intelligence ( — corporate social network site with visualization and collaboration features.
  • Ryze ( — A business to business networking community for entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs.
  • Shortcut ( — global, Swedish language online community.
  • SNShortcut ( — One more social newtork with some more services, like blogs, rss etc.
  • The Social Service ( — London-based socialising site.
  • Social Networking Services Meta List ( — multi-category networking site, including business, dating, etc.
  • ( — about social networking and social software in Japan.
  • SpurIntoAction ( Social Networking with the emphasis on Socialising with real people at real events
  • StumbleUpon ( — a web discovery service which integrates peer-to-peer and social networking with blogging.
  • Talentpod (
  • Tribe.Net ( — a smaller online social network based in San Francisco and focused on like minded people.
  • TripConnect ( — a site for travel advice on destination and hotels that uses a social networking mechanism
  • UUSwap ( — social networking services allowing people to trade with friends of friends.
  • The Virtual Handshake (http://www.TheVirtualHandshake.Com) — online social network and blog site.
  • ( — an online social network that pays users for helping people meet.
  • ( — An electronic dance music, DJ and clubbing website with social networking functionality (social networking section currently by invite only).
  • Yelp! ( — search for local services via recommendations.
  • YAP Club ( — social network with events for young professionals.

de:Soziales Netzwerk da:Socialt netvrk fr:Rseau social it:Rete sociale he:חקר רשתות חברתיות ja:社会的ネットワーク


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