ACSPRI Conferences, RC33 Eighth International Conference on Social Science Methodology

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From transaction to meaning: Internet-mediated communication as an object of modelling

Lucy Resnyansky, Lucia Falzon

Building: Law Building
Room: Breakout 5 - Law Building, Room 020
Date: 2012-07-12 11:00 AM – 12:30 PM
Last modified: 2012-04-17


Information and communication networks enable individuals to interact and develop group solidarity on foundations more diverse than geographical and cultural proximity. Therefore, social science has to move beyond the traditional ‘social – individual’ (structure – agency) dichotomy. Social researchers need methods that explore communicative interaction as a process of the construction of social reality by individuals [1, 2, 4].

According to sociologists Compte and Simmel, social processes can be understood by revealing the regularities that characterise relationships between individual social actors. Modelling and simulation methods can enable social researchers to realise this task [9]. The Internet provides a unique opportunity for applying these methods. The Internet is a source where primary data on social interaction is documented, both in the form of transactions and links, as well as in the form of meaning and various attitudes towards the message content and its source.

This paper aims to discuss the advantages and particularly limitations of Social Network Analysis (SNA) when approaching the Internet as a locus for the formation of social subjects and the spread of ideas. This paper draws upon previous exploration in the areas of social modelling and simulation, computer-mediated communication, and the Internet as a social space [3, 5, 6, 7, 8].

In many network-focused studies of Internet-mediated communication, the interaction between participants is conceptualised in terms of links and nodes. Social interaction is modelled as a structure manifested by transactions. In order to develop a more comprehensive model of social interaction, the subjective meanings of links and transactions of individual participants need to be examined. The following questions should be answered:
• How must the participants be conceptualised as social actors?
• Which acts of observable behaviour can be counted as data?

This paper discusses how concepts of social identity and social distance can be interpreted in relational terms. It outlines communication theories that allow researchers to interpret observable communicative behaviour and textual activity as manifestations of social processes, such as identity formation and socialisation. The authors suggest that the concept of meta-semiotic activity can be used to categorise the observable communicative behaviour as manifestations of social practice, such as solidarity with a group, acceptance or rejection of an idea, ideological contestation and so forth.

List of References
[1] Castells, M., 2000, ‘Materials for an exploratory theory of network society’, British Journal of Sociology, vol. 51, No. 1, pp. 5-24.
[2] Giddens, A., 1990, The consequences of modernity, Stanford, CA.
[3] Falzon, L., 2006, ‘Social modelling in support of planning and intelligence’, 11th International Command and Control research and Technology Symposium, 26-28 September 2006, Cambridge UK,
[4] Friedmann G., 1993, ‘Order and disorder in global systems: A sketch’, Theory culture society, vol. 60, no. 2, pp. 205-209.
[5] Resnyansky L., 2002, ‘Computer-mediated communication in higher education: Educators’ agency in relation to technology’, Journal of Educational Enquiry, Vol. 3, No. 1, pp. 35-59, available online at JEE.
[6] Resnyansky, L., 2009, ‘The Internet and the changing nature of intelligence’, IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, vol. 28, no. 1, pp. 41-47.
[7] Resnyansky, L. 2010, ‘The ICTs-mediated collaboration as a system of social activity’, Proceedings of the 2010 IEEE International Symposium on Technology and Society: Social Implications of Emerging technologies, 7-9 June 2010, University of Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia.
[8] Resnyansky, L. 2010, ‘Online identity as a semiotic phenomenon’, in K. Michael (ed), Proceedings of the 2010 IEEE International Symposium on Technology and Society: Social Implications of Emerging Technologies, 7-9 June 2010, University of Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia.
[9] White D.R., 2004, ‘Network analysis and social dynamics’, Cybernetics and Systems: An International Journal, vol. 35, pp. 173-192.

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