Early drafts of this paper were presented at a departmental seminar at the University of Leicester School of Management and at the 28th SCOS conference in Lille, France. I am very grateful for the constructive comments and feedback from colleagues at both of these presentations as well as from two anonymous reviewers, which have helped shape the ideas and focus of this paper.
A Cautionary Note on Data Inputs and Visual Outputs in Social Network Analysis
Article first published online: 4 JUL 2012
© 2012 The Author(s). British Journal of Management © 2012 British Academy of Management
British Journal of Management
Volume 25, Issue 1, pages 102–117, January 2014
How to Cite
Conway, S. (2014), A Cautionary Note on Data Inputs and Visual Outputs in Social Network Analysis. British Journal of Management, 25: 102–117. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8551.2012.00835.x
- Issue published online: 2 JAN 2014
- Article first published online: 4 JUL 2012
Innovations in network visualization software over the last decade or so have been important to the popularization of social network analysis (SNA) among academics, consultants and managers. Indeed, there is a growing literature that seeks to demonstrate how ‘invisible social networks’ might be revealed and leveraged for ‘visible results’ through management interventions. However, the seductive power of the network graphic has distracted attention away from a variety of emerging and long recognized concerns in SNA. For example, weaknesses exist in data collection techniques that often rely on nominal boundary-setting and respondent recall. Non-response can also be highly problematic. Increasingly, email data are being employed, yet this represents a poor proxy for relationships and raises issues of privacy. In displaying relational data, visualizations typically reify and ossify the network. Yet, individual perceptions of a network can vary greatly from unified visualizations, and their structure is typically fleeting. The aim of this paper is to draw together the diffuse literature concerning data input and visual output issues in SNA, in order to raise awareness among management researchers and practitioners. In doing so, the nature and impact of such weaknesses are discussed, as are ways in which these might be resolved or mitigated.