I’ve been always fascinated by Sociometry’s charm, a way of sociological survey invented by Jacob Raise Moreno, especially of its most static form, which allows, through the editing of (apparently) simple questionnaires, to realize/carry out the sociograms, in other words, diagrams that expound functional or emotional relationships between people.
The sociogram has represented for me, as computer technician with sociological vocation, the first true point of contact between my professional process, or rather the graph theory, studied by me and applied on software programming, and the social study of group behavior and the relationships created between people.
The pshycodramatic analysis of social roles through the use of graphs and matrixes put me, perhaps for the first time in my brief career of sociology’ student , under conditions of advantage compared with my erudite colleagues, my precedents studies of computer science and statistic converged in evident way toward Moreno’s theory of roles.
Let’s give an example! With a simple questionnaire each dependent of the office must indicate in order of priority, three colleagues with which he interacts more in the emotional field, operative one, and last but not least the relational one, in order to get interesting matrixes or diagrams that expound functional and emotional stories.
The sociogram clearly reveals who is the emotional leader, or the isolated individual, and who are the “functional” reference points, the subgroups…
A few pieces of information given by a simple questionnaire allow us to analyse, evaluate and consider the group altogether as well as the presence of emotional or functional subgroups, the role, the tendencies, the lacks in terms of communication, relationship, sensitiveness…
Today, twenty years after my onset of awareness, I see Sociometry as a “starting point” of a much more complex process, insofar the net provides us a nearly unlimited amount of information to analyse from the social point of view and a number equally unlimited of “virtual groups“.
Web, with its portals, blogs, chats and, above all, social networks, went well beyond the friendly net, giving us, at present time, the possibility of analysing tendencies, tastes, opinions, researches, purchases, etc…
Colossuses as Google and Facebook have at their disposal an immense amount of information, they can monitor our personal behaviors, take notes of our affairs, analyse how individuals (and groups) communicate to each other, what they post, and furthermore they interlock these information with age, origin, geolocalization…
The relational story , i.e. the number of relationships between people, has increased disproportionately thanks to this inherent facility of new communication tools. Today, for an internet user, it is extremely easy to join a group and share the same interests.
It is often said that web is participatory and collaborative/cooperative, I would also add that due to its autopoetical system based on a technological infrastructure characterized by strict borders and rules, it is possible to trace behaviors, relationships, emotions and memorize all of them on database.
Data, many data, a great deal of data to elaborate and convert into statistics, matrixes, diagrams, sociograms. Such a huge amount of data to determine the creation of a real useful term in order to define these universes of information: “Big Data“.
In fact, it is evident how the analysis of behaviors and group tendencies can reveal us indications considerably different from the individual behavior’s analysis, the massive analysis of “social” actions carried out on a “global level” on net, can determine a remarkable and unpredictable informativecapital gain.
The presence of this information on monumental databases is sustained by computer procedures more and more structured, comparative, complex, versatile, many-sided, intelligent, fast.
Today, the social network analysis, seen as the analysis of behaviors and social networks, can be applied/attached to the informative heritage, to the “Big Data”, available thanks to internet and other sciences contribution, such as statistics and, of course, computer science.
I recommend you to view this video that, with simple but also original terms, explains what the Social network analysis is.
My task in the matter is to resolve the semantic misunderstanding of the name’s origin, the social network analysis was created well before the “social network”, with the anthropological purpose ofsettling/sorting out, methodologically,the relational stories presented in the real life.
It is also true that SNA is not in antithesis with social networks or web itself, in the future, it is even possible to find its true consecration on “social” databases, the informative base capable of giving a real conclusive extra value.
The presence on internet of portals and social thematic networks, can represent a further stimulus, allowing us to analyse behaviors and contents not only in absolute terms, but also in specific terms, thematic, of group.
The analysis, based on a large number of contents and social behaviors developed online, can really bring to light new and imperceptible tendencies, an useful surplus not only in commercial terms and consumption’s compulsory behavior, but also with the purpose of determining new social, cultural and anthropological group dynamics.
I recommend you to read this article where Adam Rifkin underlines how the information coming from tumbIr, tool partly social network and partly blog, currently used by audience “of niche”, I dare say in a moderately expansion, are more reliable than those coming from the “generalists” of social network: “That, in to nutshell, is the difference between to social graph and an interest graph.”
Quality or quantity? Let’s not put limits to our analysis. Now, the main thing is to admit the relevant potentiality that these unlimited databases present.
Web is not only an enormous group of people who communicate, it is also a way to fix, analyse and add this flow of information, passions, tendencies. Stored behaviors and, therefore, analysable from different points of view as well as endless virtual psicodramas from which we can learn a lot and maybe even anticipate the times. We hope that analysts, sociologists, statistic social experts and computer technicians, succeed in capitalizing this wealth in order to create together sensitive tools able to perceive, in advance if possible, and not only for commercial purposes, our real priorities, our necessities, new tendencies and inclinations.
In conclusion, i can only hope in the greatest of paradoxes, that social networks, being created as playful tools with mainly commercial purpose, can become themselves, through their immense databases where our actions are memorized, tools able to show “from below” consumptions, fashions, social, political and economic tendencies.
Someone is watching us recording our behaviors, but to be optimistic, maybe it is not so bad after all.