Social network is the entire set of relationship an individual shares with others. These are formed due to the influence of social factors as well as they are consciously created out of individual efforts e.g. membership of a club. How are the individual related or linked amongst themselves, is reflected through social networks. A social network is basically a set of actors and relations that hold these actors together. Actors can be individuals or aggregate units such as departments, organizations, or families. Actors form social networks by exchanging one or many resources with each other. Such resources can be information, goods, services, social support or financial support. These kinds of resource exchanges are considered a social network relation, where individuals who.
They differ from two-mode networks in that two-mode networks consist of two sets of actors or one set of actors and one set of events . The simplest form of a social network consists of actors and/or events and their connections to each other. There is no assumption that groups are the building blocks of society: the approach is open to studying less-bounded social systems, from no local communities to links among Web sites. Rather than treating individuals (persons, organizations, states) as discrete units of analysis, it focuses on how the structure of ties affects individuals and their relationships.
By contrast with analyses that assume that socialization into norms determines behaviour, network analysis looks to see the extent to which the structure and composition of ties affect norms. The shape of a social network helps determine a network’s usefulness to its individuals.
The Total Network of Social Relationships: Society, as we have seen, is a web of relationships, which occurs between individuals in the society itself. Thus the total network of relationship covers the society itself. The use of social network methods depends on the availability of relational rather than attribute data . It further allows the mapping, of relationships between people. This can be used to identify knowledge flows such as who do people seek information and knowledge from? Who do they share their information and knowledge with? An organization chart, shows the formal relationships such as, who works where and who reports to whom, however a social network analysis chart shows the informal relationships such as who knows whom and who shares information and knowledge with whom.
As such, social network makes it possible to visualize and understand the relationships that may facilitate or impede knowledge creation and sharing. Since social network allows these relationships to be visible, it is sometimes referred to as an organizational x-ray which shows the real networks that operate underneath the surface organizational structure.
Formation and Operation of Social Networks: Since the very birth, the formation of social network begins-family, kin group etc. which continues to be widened as one grows. Access to information, status and power is achieved through one’s social network that is the kind of people one interacts and relates to maintain the relation are said to maintain a tie. The strength of their tie may range from weak to strong, which depends on the number and types of resources they exchange, the frequency of exchanges and the intimacy of the exchanges.
Further, social ties consist of multiple relations (as in the case of doctors who have a doctor-patient relationship as well as a friendship relationship) and therefore are called “multiplex ties”. Social networks can be categorized into one of the two types of networks. One-mode networks consist of a single set of actors.