The SAGE handbook of Social Network Analysis

A new handbook is to be published soon by SAGE titled ‘The SAGE handbook of Social Network Analysis’. It is edited by John Scott and Peter Carrington. A full list of chapters can be read online.

Looking at the scope and contributors, this seems like another future reference-work by largely the same authors that brought us Carrington, Scott & Wasserman eds. 2005. Might just attest of the high institutionalisation (and North-American focus) of SNA. The scope is not limited to methodology though. A number of theoretical chapters are included, possibly as a result of the popularity of the idea of the network as a metaphor.

Some chapters might prove to be of particular interest to archaeologists, anthropologists and historians:
Network Theory: Stephen P Borgatti and Virginie Lopez-Kidwell
Kinship, Class, and Community: Douglas R White
Animal Social Networks: Katherine Faust
Corporate Elites and Intercorporate Networks: William K Carroll and J P Sapinski
Social Movements and Collective Action: Mario Diani
Scientific and Scholarly networks: Howard D White
Cultural Networks: Paul DiMaggio
Qualitative Approaches: Betina Hollstein
Kinship Network Analysis: Klaus Hamberger, Michael Houseman and Douglas R White

Co-presence of forms and wares

Our previous post mentioned the issues concerning the definition of non-geographical networks. In this blog post we will give an example of such networks, and how it might lead to interesting insights about pottery distributions.

The production centres of major eastern table wares range from a limited number of cities (e.g. Eastern Sigillata C (ESC)) to a more widespread regional production (e.g. African Red Slip Ware (ARSW)). Each centre produces fine wares with a specific fabric, making it possible to differentiate their distribution patterns. Such distributions might be visualised as networks in which sites are the individual nodes and the relationships between sites represent the number of wares (not sherds) that are present at both sites at the same time-period. This would provide a series of very simple but rather informative networks representing the sites involved in the distribution of a specific table ware, which can be compared and added up with the networks of all other wares and analysed through time in 15-year periods.

These networks might provide useful insights on the relationships between cities and most importantly people, who were involved in inter-regional ceramic trade.

Another approach focuses on the individual forms which, in contrast to the general distinctions between producing centres, presents us with a different type of information going back to the individuals producing the pots and the people for whom they are made. In addition, a single form can be produced in several centres and in different table ware fabrics, allowing for the rise and fall in popularity and the diffusion of pottery forms to be analysed. A network of pottery forms represents sites related to each other on the basis of the number of forms they have in common in a specific period.

Such networks allow the study of the distribution of individual pottery forms, to group sites based on the simmilarity or difference of their pottery assemblages, and to see the evolution of these disstribution patterns in 15-year periods.

The two non-geographical networks described above might form the basis for discussions around the following topics: are the distribution patterns of individual forms dependant on/similar to the existing inter-regional socio-economical networks of major fine ware distribution? Do forms that are produced in multiple table ware fabrics circulate in networks that are similar to one or more of these wares? Are form/ware networks linked to social networks of potters, traders, land owners and how can we distinguish between the actors in pottery trade?

An important issue we need to raise, however, is that in the above networks we only used the number of co-present wares/forms rather than the number of co-present sherds. Although we might avoid the bias of archaeological research interests and emphases in this way, we might also miss a chance of having an indicator of the intensity of distribution as represented in the sheer volume of sherds.

The above networks can be tested on their validity by confronting them with their socio-economic and political framework (Bes 2007). We have not yet figured out a way to test these hypotheses quantitatively.

Any comments on these networks, the questions they might answer or the very nature of this approach are more than welcome!

Defining networks

As already mentioned in the preliminary method defining networks (the relationships within ceramic distributions) is of crucial importance as this will dominate the results of the analysis. This should also happen as early on as possible in the project, because it will determine our approach of the data (the database model and overall method). As it is our aim to investigate the relationship between ceramics and Roman trade, we thought it best not to drift too far from the data themselves. We could even question the use of analysing networks that combine the ceramic data and other parameters (like distance, topography or sailing conditions), as the things we think to be significant will also turn out to be structuring factors in the networks.
But what relationships are explicitly present in the data themselves? As we mentioned before, it’s hard to think of networks that include no assumptions (this is why we prefer a methodology that is based on testing hypotheses/assumptions, rather than focusing on one type of network). We noticed that it is hard not to think geographically when thinking about the relationships within a large quantity of ceramics. The first network we came up with actually focused on the transportation of the ceramics, from centre of production to centre of deposition. In this network the points would represent sites and the lines acts of ceramic transportation. Such a network, however, requires assumptions about the junctions between the known starting and ending sites, which made us think about making distance a defining factor. Although, it is very temping to try and reconstruct ancient trade routes, we decided that there were too many factors to take into account (land/sea travel, distance, sailing conditions, topography, Roman roads).
So are there non-geographical networks reflected in ceramic distributions? We might look at the quantities of certain ceramic types, the diversity of pottery types for every site, and the patterns in presence of types at the same period in the same place. It becomes increasingly hard to imagine such networks and what they represent; but it should result in an interesting and innovative view on ceramic distributions. Do these networks inform us on the contacts of producing centres, the popularity of pottery types, the social networks in which traders frequented, do they reflect trade in other items like staple goods?
It is our aim to discover the structure within a ceramic database, by evaluating as many network types as possible as hypotheses. Please share doubts about the above mentioned networks; and feel free to propose other relationships that could be implied by ceramic distributions.

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