Technically, every interaction between more than two sources becomes a sort of social network – which is why social network analysis software can be used for everything from business organizations to contagious disease control. However, in recent years, with the development of Internet phenomena such as Facebook, social network theory has become more and more focused on the many ways that people interrelate and communicate via the various social networking platforms. The idea of social networks and the notions of sociometry and sociograms appeared over 50 years ago.
Basically there are two elements in any social network, online or offline: nodes and ties. Nodes are the elements of the network that "act" – whether they are organizations, small groups, or individuals – and ties are the ways these nodes relate to each other. The fact that these kinds of ties can vary in intensity and importance is just one of the many variables that can factor into social network theory. Often the analysis of a network will involve dots of varying sizes and colors connected by lines of differing lengths and thicknesses.
One of the defining elements of social network theory that differentiates it from other sociological sciences is the weight it gives to the relationships between the nodes, as opposed to the attributes of the nodes themselves. While this is useful to explain many social phenomena, it is also criticized for making the individual seem less able to shape their own destiny – putting the emphasis on a person's place in the network as opposed to their own attributes.
The power of social network theory stems from its difference from traditional sociological studies.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. 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.
As with many aspects of the Internet, the primary focus of much social network theory, outside of academia, is on business applications. Companies are obviously social networks made up of internal social networks, and when you add in business-to-business interactions, the complicated web of connection grows exponentially. At the same time, at their smallest level these connections are made from person to person, so companies can leverage interpersonal relationships to corporate advantage.
Business is not the only area affected by the rise of online social networks. It seems like successful social networks grow like weeds. Just look at how massive Facebook and MySpace have become. A good social network establishes the foundation for its users, and then allows them to do their thing - with minimal interference. As a network adds users its value grows exponentially.There have been both positive and negative impacts on education, entertainment, and even terrorist attacks through social networking tools. A suicide by a teen was related to a false profile on MySpace, for example, and the terrorists who attacked Mumbai, India in 2008 used social networks to coordinate their violence. Just as social networks have become part of everyday life, the theory behind them is a science as interesting as it is essential.
This development of social networking can provide many promising uses in the field of education, especially since most of the kids today are already becoming very experienced with such programs. I can imagine having students from different schools work on basic projects that doesn’t rely too heavily on roles of trust. For example, students from surrounding schools can have similar assignments and projects that can be viewed by the whole system and even collaborate together throughout the year if desired.
I don’t find it shocking to think that there will be a social network dedicated to the educational system that is monitored and controlled by the teachers and faculty within each school. It can give a strong application of working through portals via the Web rather than having the narrow scope of only being involved and affecting people visually within a company under a building.