Social networks in psychosocial research
The discussion on social networks is vast. Currently, this discussion has been expanded due to the fact that social networks are being used in the most varied fields of science, as an interdisciplinary way of understanding how social networks are organized and work in different areas of life. A unidirectional look is no longer enough, but a diversity of views and positions that contribute to the configuration of social networks in an ever closer approach to reality.
The fields and disciplines that currently study on social networks belong to both the so-called hard sciences and the soft sciences. Thus, we find research and discussions in informatics, mathematics, physics, anthropology, sociology, psychology, linguistics, medicine and ecology, among others. Let us then begin to understand how social networks can be defined, in the human and social sciences.
We can define social networks as an open system in permanent construction, which are built individually and collectively. They use the set of relationships that a person and a group have, and are sources of recognition, of feeling of identity, of being, of competence, of action. They are related to the roles played in relationships with other people and social groups (Montero, 2003), constituting social practices that are not fully used in everyday life (Rangel, 2003).
In the research on social networks we find two major focuses of study. The first looks especially at the structural aspect of networks, using a graphical and quantitative methodological framework for their analysis. The second is about the functionality of social networks. This understanding is usually accomplished through qualitative methodologies, aiming to describe the functions that the social network provides, as well as to characterize the bonds with which they are interwoven.
Social media organizations and events
In 1978, the professional association INSNA (International Network for Social Netwok Analyzes) was created for researchers interested in the analysis of social networks, based in the United States, which maintains permanent information for its members through Connections, the entity's official bulletin. It was founded by Barry Wellman in 1978 and he is still the current president. The institution's main function is to keep users informed about aspects related to networks, which cover a wide range of sociological, religious, educational, medical and technological topics and subjects. In its form, Conections is designed as a social science website.
Another of INSNA's functions is to maintain the annual Sunbelt conference, which has existed since 1979. In recent years, it has been held in Canada, Hungary, the United States, Mexico and in 2004 in Slovenia. At the conference in Mexico in 2003, the themes worked on obeyed both the structural analysis and the functioning of the networks, and the contents ranged from community studies to ways of carrying out mathematical analyzes.
As soon as the association and the conference are formalized, we find specialized magazines. Perhaps the most important of these is Social Networks, which has been published since 1979, one year after INSNA was created and in the same year that the Sunbelt conference was established, having published twenty-seven volumes by 2005, containing just over 100 magazines, with quarterly publication. The themes that are published in the magazine cover mathematics, computer science, economics, sociology, anthropology, history, geography, psychology, political science and the broad area of social sciences. In addition to addressing studies on the structure and function of networks, it also publishes specific methodologies for their analysis, mainly of a quantitative and graphical order, not forgetting qualitative, explanatory and explanatory methodologies.
An electronic magazine - living up to the possibility of connecting virtually and the presence or physical proximity to exercise the functions of the social network is no longer mandatory - is the Journal of Social Structure, (JoSS), which, as already indicated by its name, is dedicated to the structural study of networks linked, also, to INSNA. The magazine is in its sixth edition, having started its electronic publications in 2000.
Finally, Redes, a Hispanic magazine for the study of social networks, likewise, in electronic format, started publishing in 2001 and, in 2005, published its seventh volume. It is a magazine focused in particular on the themes that take place in Latin American countries and Spain, where its edition is rooted.
We also found several manuals dedicated to the study of social networks, among which we can mention Degenne and Forsé (1999), Scott, Jhon (1991-2000) and Wasserman and Faust (1994).
In the CAPES database (2004), when looking for social networks, taking 2000 as the base year, to defend dissertations and theses in all areas of knowledge, we found 80 titles of final papers for graduate studies. Among the pages of scientific quality that we find on the network and that allows access to scientific articles, we find Scielo (2005) that, in the search for social networks, allows us to capture three articles, this page being the date, limited to contribute with the research on the topic.
Finally, in direct searches by Google, when writing social network, we come across more than 600,000 pages. Obviously, in this type of search, the data provided is of a unique variety, not only because of the thematic content, but also due to the difference in the quality of what is displayed there. When adding to the search and psychology, the number drops to 44,000 pages, which does not gain importance nor, for this very reason, increases the quality.
As we can see, searches on social networks end up acquiring great complexity. In addition to the issues related to the theme's own complexity, we are faced with the difficulty of accessing relevant and updated materials on the theme in Brazil.
On the other hand, publications on social networks outside the country, allow us the possibility to study them, as well as to check some research on social networks in the contexts of human development, as presented below.