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31. Ego-net analysis

 
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Ego-net analysis explores the networks of a particular actor (either an individual or an organisation, such as a government or a private firm)

Ego-net analysis is one of several approaches to Social Network Analysis. An ego-net is the network which forms around a particular social actor, be that a human actor or a corporate actor, such as an economic firm or national government. In theory it involves all other actors (alters) with whom ego enjoys a specific type or types of tie (e.g. emotional closeness, information sharing, economic exchange etc.) and all relations (of the same type or types) between those alters. Ego-net data can be collected via all the standard methods of data collection, including surveys, interviews, observations, archival and online material. Therefore ego-net analysis is often quite easy to slot into a more conventionally structured project.

Ego-nets are advantageous for the studying of what Simmel calls ‘intersecting social circles’ and White ‘network domains’. Both writers observe that in Modern societies most people interact and form ties across a number of distinct ‘social circles’ or ‘domains’ whose membership, with the exception of ego herself, does not overlap. These patterns of separation and intersection, which are essential to a proper understanding of the networked character of human social life, are much easier to get at by means of an ego-net survey. Ego-nets are also particularly useful in the analysis of large networks: being compatible with sample survey ego-nets are possible to use it in relation to big populations, on which standard statistical tools can also be applied.

At the Mitchell Centre for Social Network Analysis various research projects have made use of ego-net data, gathering them from various sources. Gemma Edwards has worked extensively on historical archives to reconstruct the personal networks of militant suffragettes in Manchester; Elisa Bellotti has combined ego-nets with biographical interviews to explore the meaning and structure of friendship networks for singletons in Italy; Martin Everett has developed ad hoc methodological tools for the analysis of ego-nets, like ego-net betweenness; Mark Tranmer statistically models the embededdness of ego-net ties in multilevel networks; and Johan Koskinen has recently developed cutting edge methods for the statistical analysis of longitudinal ego-nets. The focus of the Mitchell Centre on the various aspects of ego-nets research is collected in a collective book forthcoming for Sage: Analysing Ego-Nets: Issues, Methods and Measures.

 

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