Vast amounts of digital data are now generated daily by people as they go about their lives, yet social researchers are struggling to exploit it. At the same time, the challenges faced by society in the 21st century are growing ever more complex, and demands research that is bigger in scale, more collaborative and multi-disciplinary than ever before. This cutting-edge volume provides an accessible introduction to innovative digital social research tools and methods that harness this ‘data deluge’ and successfully tackle key research challenges. Contributions from leading international researchers cover topics such as:  • Qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods research  • Data management  • Social media and social network analysis  • Modeling and simulation  • Survey methods  • Visualizing social data  • Ethics and e-research  • The future of social research in the digital age This vibrant introduction to innovative digital research methods is essential reading for anyone conducting social research today.

Social Network Analysis

Robert AcklandJonathan J. H. Zhu

10.1 Introduction

The last decade has witnessed a surge in research into social networks using trace data collected from the Web. While sociologists have been studying social networks for decades, the interest in researching social networks from other disciplines (e.g., other parts of the social sciences, applied physics, computer science) has arguably been triggered by the availability of data on social interactions in social network sites such as Facebook and information sharing environments such as newsgroups, blogs, and micro-blogs (e.g., Twitter).

Figure 10.1 A semantic network of top hashtags from Twitter

Figure 39


This chapter begins with an introduction to social networks analysis (SNA), outlining the major concepts and how the ‘network perspective’ differs from other social scientific approaches to studying ...

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