Network Ecology - Tie formation in Context(s)

Malte Doehne, Daniel McFarland, James Moody


Social networks are embedded in material, cultural, and institutional settings that affect tie formation processes and the resulting network topologies. For example, romantic entanglements are subject to social and cultural norms, country-specific legislation constrains inter-firm alliances, and adolescent friendships are conditioned by classroom settings and neighborhood effects. In short, social contexts affect the dynamics and structures of social networks. How and when they do so, however, remains to be established. This paper presents network ecology as a framework for identifying how the proximal environment shapes social networks by affecting interactions and social relations, and how these interactions and relations in turn shape the environments in which social networks form. Network ecology calls for research that compares networks across settings and over time and that relates variation in tie formation to proximal features of the social environment.

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