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Lecture 3

Lecture 3 Notes


Department
Sociology
Course Code
SOC101Y1
Professor
Matthias Koenig
Lecture
3

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SOC355Y1 – Lecture #3
September 28, 2010
Monday office hours between 12 and 2
Last week you learned:
-Network analysis argues that similar network structures have similar causes and similar effects
-Random networks have very predictable structures: one component, low clustering, short path-
length
-Most networks are non-random. Networks are affected by:
oPreferences for interaction
oContexts or foci in which contacts are made
Transitivity
Homophily- tendency for like to associate to like
oGrowth over time
New nodes- change in structure, tiesties form through others, popular continue
to be popular etc.
-In particular- Simmels argument for separating form (sociologists to study) from content.
Individuality is the result of network and resolving conflicts in network position.
-Concrete network structuresrandom networks
Today’s Outline
-Theories of the Middle Range
-What makes network theories different
oRelations, not attributes
oNetworks not groups
oRelations in the context of other relations
-How to make your very own network theory
oFormalist Theories
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oStructuralist Theories
THEORIES OF THE MIDDLE RANGE
-Term coined by Robert K. Merton (contemporary theorists based out of Columbia)- theory of
deviance, Matthew Effect (rich get richer and poor get poorer)
-Merton said theories of the middle range are at a moderate level of abstraction, not so abstract that
they are not useful but not so specific that they can be tied to one thing, they can produce a bunch
of different hypotheses, it is a set of interrelated propositions about how different concepts
relation to one another which can create the theory of the middle range
-Theory: means a hypothesis but not how it works in natural or social sciences -- it means a set of
interrelated propositions about how something works.
-The fact that it is a theory does not imply if it is true or false
-We can make up a theory does not have a lot of support vs. one that does
-Simmel (individuality, nature of society) – not useful for the kinds of things sociologists like to
research – sociological questions such as “Who is likely to commit a crime
oHard to predict how things work out with Simmelmeaning in context is not clear?
oIf we want to test Simmels ideasit is somewhat hard, we need to look through a lens,
look in relationsconsistent but not only
oTheories of middle range: coming down to have a useful idea about something
oTheories- where to look for answers and relations
-Go the other way? Find something specific? Ex: fashion statement, teenagers -low hanging
pants””If grandmas start wearing low hanging pants then teenagers will stop wearing them. =
very specific theory of low hanging pants, bingo halls and teenagers
-We need something broader but not too broad- theory of middle range would say when
something is fashionable with some group of people it will cease to be fashionable when a group
with low status in their eyes take it up”use to get a marketing job for example
-What makes it a theory of middle range- it does not just predict low hanging pants, it predicts
other things
-For example: Names go in and out of fashion and they are an interesting example – no one
actually cares what you name your kid, names are not based on any external push – good example
of something that goes in and out of fashion
-When something is fashionable among one group it will go out of fashion when a lower group
takes it up – same with names, Ex: androgynous names (once associated with male then
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associated with female) IT does not go the other way though where a girl name becomes a boys
it is mostly male names becoming girls
oEx: Ali shifting from female male but with Ali there is an immigration reason –
gender differs amongst ethnic groups
oWhat happens: you have a boys name which becomes adopted as a girls name but then
the parents of boys (higher status group) no longer name child that original boy name
oNeat about theories of middle range- apply them in lots of places
oPatterns differ: another examplewhen did it become acceptable for straight people to
sing the YMCAWhat happened? That group is less stigmatized- gays no longer
stigmatized as in the 70s
oEx: same thing happening with names – hypothesis- names for European and Irish
immigrants would use primarily for that ethnicity but with time the names would be used
by other ethnicitiesstigma changes?
What makes network theories different from other theories?
1. Do not assume that environments and attributes affect actors independently
2. They do not assume uniformly cohesive and discretely bounded groups
3. They take context so seriously that even relations themselves are viewed in the context of
other relations
Lets look at them individually
1. Do not assume that environments and attributes affect actors independently
Reflect on Statistics
-Regression – divide people up according to attributes and divide into categories
-Social network analysts argue that we do not treat attributes as causal. We do not see it as a
particular gender causing a particular outcome.
-Network analysts argue that it is not attributes that are acting but rather people with similar
attributes are in similar network positions and thus have similar constraints on behaviour, similar
opportunities, and similar view of what the world looks like and similar views and perceptions as
a result
-Gender attributea lot of effects we see from gender are based on network positions (READING
OF THE WEEK)people have similar constraints on behaviour and therefore act similarly- it is
not about chromosome but rather the particular network, network base location (kin vs. work)
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