Social networks are not just patterns of interaction and sentiment in the real world; they are also cognitive (re)constructions of social relations, some real, some imagined. Focusing on networks as mental entities, our essay describes a new method that relies on stylized network images to gather quantitative data on how people “see” specific aspects of their social worlds. We discuss the logic of our approach, present several examples of “visual network scales,” discuss some preliminary findings, and identify some of the problems and prospects in this nascent line of work on the phenomenology of social networks.
We thank Filip Agneessens, Dan Brass, Travis Grosser, Martin Kilduff, David Krackhardt, Joe Labianca, Zuzana Sasovova, Patrizia Vecchi, Michael Wise, and Meredith Woehler for their comments and criticisms.
Mehra, A., Borgatti, S.P., Soltis, S., Floyd, T., Halgin, D.S., Ofem, B. and Lopez-Kidwell, V. (2014), "Imaginary Worlds: Using Visual Network Scales to Capture Perceptions of Social Networks", Contemporary Perspectives on Organizational Social Networks (Research in the Sociology of Organizations, Vol. 40), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 315-336. https://doi.org/10.1108/S0733-558X(2014)0000040016
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