Social Networks: field advanced by people “not in the field”?

On Saturday I came back from the annual meeting of the UK Social Networks Association (UKSNA). It was the perfect place to meet old friends and make new ones. The program is here . I presented our work on why Twitter is a social network, and on why people "unfriend" each other on Facebook (the latter was covered by the New Scientist today). Interesting presentations include those on Tom Snijeders' multilevel longitudinal analysis of social networks, Harrigan's work on tie formation on Twitter, Emery's on "shared Leadership", and Marcus's on the connected communities project (those are the only presentations I could listen to - i joined a bit later because of other commitments in nottingham)

I was on a panel chaired by Bernie Hogan. The panel was discussing how network studies in the social sciences could help us to investigate the use of "Social Media". Here Paola summarised her thoughts on what was said, concluding:

"...there is an unmet and unrecognised need for theories. We don't know how social influence works in online networks. How social media help to form social capital, and how comparable this is to the social capital we knew offline. Whether local or global network effects are prevalent. How online/offline multiplexity works."

It's interesting to see that all these topics have been recently covered by people on a hybrid ground - that is,  by people who are at the cross road of sociology, physics, and computer science. Namely, NB Ellison's work on building social capital in Facebook, Sinan Aral's on social influence online, and JP Onnela's on multi-slice networks. Development in the field could go no faster - by those who are not "in the field". Brokerage at work? :)

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