My Writing Sample: Organizational Social Networks

sociogramThe organization to which the friendship network shown above belongs is Purdue University. This  sociogram is specifically about the students who participated in the Barcelona study abroad program in the summer of 2015. The students were thrust into a completely new environment and experienced some culture shock. Despite the fact that this study abroad program was only a four-week program, the students developed their friendships extremely quickly and it became clear within the first week who would be spending time with who. The above sociogram is a detailed depiction of how the students in this four-week program came together and who they befriended during their time abroad.

This friendship network consists of 17 nodes and many more edges. We can assume that all of the friendships go both ways, so this is a non-directional network. It is a relatively dense network of students, as most students have multiple friendships with numerous people and there are many edges between the 17 nodes. There are three students in particular who have six or more edges, a number larger than the other students. These students are Olivia, Grady, and John. According to Professor Jeter’s lecture on social network terms, one can describe these three students as having a high degree of centrality due to the abundance of edges they have. (Jeter, 2016). Due to their larger amounts of edges within the network, they are fewer degrees away from reaching anyone else on the graph. Their higher number of edges allows them to have more paths to take in order to get to different nodes.

If we look closer at the nodes and their edges, we can identify a couple of spots on the sociogram that display dyads and imploded relationships. For example, Lauren and Jessica are only connected to each other and to no one else. This is an example of a dyad, because they are a group of only two people. (Jeter, 2016). They could also be considered an example of an imploded relationship. According to Krackhardt & Hanson, an imploded relationship occurs when certain nodes have very few if any links to other nodes or groups. In Lauren and Jessica’s case, they most likely spent all of their time communicating with each other and failed to branch out and create friendships with other members of the network. This caused their relationship to somewhat implode and for them to only have ties with each other. (Krackhardt & Hanson, 2000).

Another interesting phenomenon that we can observe in this friendship network is the idea of triadic closure. Triadic closure can be described by the following scenario: if nodes B and C have a friend A in common, then the formation of an edge between B and C produces a situation in which all three nodes A, B, and C have edges connecting each other,” (Easly & Kleinberg, 2010, p. 62). An example of triadic closure can be seen when observing the upper left portion of the sociogram. Olivia is friends with Emily and Shari, and eventually a friendship between Shari and Emily emerged as a result. If Shari and Emily had not connected in some way, then it would have been difficult for Olivia to remain friends with both of them equally. This idea of triadic closure can also be observed between Kelsey, Meg, and Katie B. Kelsey was friends with both Meg and Katie B., therefore Katie B. and Meg developed an edge of their own. Their tie, or friendship, may be weaker or less close than their friendship with Kelsey, but all that matters is that they have some kind of friendship as opposed to none at all.

Despite certain pockets of increased edges and nodes, the group as a whole is relatively well-connected all throughout. This reflects the “small world phenomenon” discussed by Easly and Kleinberg. The network’s dense nature  lends it to be an example of a “small world” due to the fact that no one node is too far away from any other. Even if one node has no direct ties with a certain other, they would not have to go through too many other nodes to reach the one that they seek.

A study done by Song Yang and Britni Ayers from the University of Arkansas analyzes the effects that race, age, and gender might have on friendship formation in college students. Their overall goal is to determine the extent to which homophily- the tendency to associate and befriend those who look and act like you- plays a role in friendship formation. (Yang and Ayers, 2014). In order to do their research, they gathered a group of students in a classroom and asked them to identify who their friends were. The researchers found that overall race and age were the two most influential factors for friendship formation in their group of students. Many of the closest friendships in the network above were between students of the same age and usually the same race.  It is interesting to study friendship networks in this way in order to understand on a deeper level what factors go into why certain friendships are formed and others are not. (Yang and Ayers, 2014).

This network is a non-directional graph of relationships that were formed in an extremely short time-frame between students of a similar age who shared similar interests. Though there are dyads and triads within the network, it is as a whole fairly dense making it seem like it is a “small world”. This map could go on to be used for further research on social network dynamics.

 

More on the topic… 

org-social-network

Workforce Engagement for the 21st Century: The Social Enterprise. By Dion Hinchcliffe.

This creative commons photo created by Dion Hinchcliffe depicts an organizational network. It shows the overall hierarchy of the organization as well as the flow of communication, advice networks, and oversight.

Watch: Ted Talk about the hidden influence of social networks

This Ted Talk by Nicholas Christakis about the importance of social networks illustrates how social networks are integral in all aspects of life, but especially within organizations.

References

Easley, D., & Kleinberg, J. (2010). Networks, crowds, and markets: Reasoning about a highly                  connected world. Cambridge University Press.

Jeter, P. (2016). Lecture on Social Network Terms and Visualization. Personal Collection of P.         Jeter, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN.

Krackhardt, D., & Hanson, J.R. (2000). Informal networks: The company. Harvard Business           Review, pp. 104-111.

Yang, S., & Ayers, B. (2014). Do birds of a feather flock together? A social network study of      friendship networks among college students. Journal of Current Issues in Media and                Telecommunications, 6(1), 43-56.

Word Count: 985

Keywords: Social networks, Organizations, Friendship Network, Nodes, Edges, Sociogram

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