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Networks & Communication

Instructors: Scott Poole and Andy Pilny
Length: 1 day

This 1-day workshop will discuss applications of social network analysis to the field of Communication. The basic outline is as follows:

Part 1: An overview of theory and research in communication networks

The morning session is dedicated to providing an overview on how the field of communication has understood and analyzed social networks over the last 50 years. Here, it is important to conceptualize communication as a multifaceted, but unified field, consisting of different traditions in systems theory, social-psychology, rhetoric, semiotics, cultural studies, and critical theory. Basic models of communication are reviewed because they have important assumptions about how different communication researchers determine what is and is not considered a social network. Review of findings from four types of communication networks are presented: (1) flow (e.g., information transmission), (2) affinity (e.g., socially-constructed relationships like friendship), (3) representational (e.g., relationships formed based on messages to a third party), and (4) semantic (e.g., shared interpretations) ties. Finally, home-grown communication network theories are presented.  Some of these emphasize structure, in common with most network theories in other fields, but others bring a processual orientation, which is a particular emphasis of the communication discipline focusing on the process of communication.

Part 2: Opportunities and the future of research in communication networks

The afternoon session is dedicated to providing participants frameworks for how the tools learned throughout the week can be used to answer important communication problems, including ego-networks, descriptive network metrics, and stochastic models. We present some of the most recent issues of interest to communication scholars and how SNA can and has been used to answer those questions. We would like this portion to be more interactive, so participants are encouraged to share their own areas of inquiry. Most communication journals are SNA friendly, but we will conclude with the do’s and don’ts for those interesting in publishing in communication outlets. 


Scott Poole is a Professor of Communication at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champagne. According to Google Scholar, he has more than 28,000 citations to his name. 

Andy Pilny is Asst. Prof. of Communication at the University of Kentucky. He is especially interested in dynamics models of network formation.

Suggested readings:

Shumate, M., Pilny, A., Atouba, Y., Kim, J., Pena y Lillo, M., Cooper, K., Sahagun, A., & Yang, S. (2013). A taxonomy of communication networks. Communication Yearbook, 37, (pp. 94-123). New York: Routledge.

Poole, M. S. (2012). On the study of process in communication research. In C. T. Salmon (Ed.), Communication Yearbook, 36 (pp. 371-409). New York: Routledge.

Contractor, N., & Forbush, E. (2017). Networks. In C. Scott, & L. Lewis (Eds.) International encyclopedia of organizational communication. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Andrew Pilny,
Mar 28, 2018, 8:03 PM
Andrew Pilny,
Mar 28, 2018, 8:04 PM