Tagesarchiv: September 29, 2008

Symposion on Relational Sociology

Berlin former East

Berliner Dom (former East)

Last week I was lucky to attend the symposion on relational sociology at Berlin’s Humboldt University. I had encountered network theory and empirical network analysis earlier, e.g. in Manuel Castells‘ Network society, Mark Granovetter’s famous essay on the strengths of weak ties and Ronald Burt’s brokerage and closure, and I see empirical network approaches as an increasingly important paradigm in German sociology. But this symposion was the first time I encountered Relational Sociology around Harrison White’s approach. So I took the opportunity to watch the symposion. The program was interesting since one could watch new transatlantic relations being established to other theory traditions by relating networks to functional sytems, to boundaries, to culture, to structure, to knowledge organization online with the example of Wikipedia, to aesthetic markets, to stories, to quality conventions, to social inequality and to the emergence of „Big structures“ from basic relationships such as friendships and alliances. Through the presentations, White’s approach was confronted with various cases: social movement publics, disciplines in science, knowledge organizations and the emergence of order in Wikipedia, empirical aesthetic markets, network relations in news stories in the German Print media, to social inequality as a consequence of the interplay of network structure and cultural patterns, and to the emergence of „Big Structures“ such as power. The conceptual contributions and empirical cases presented were chosen, examined and presented rather to affirm than to challenge Harrison White’s apporach. The symposion might have profited from contributions challenging the paradigm: Relational sociology as a new transatlantic school of thought was coming together – particularly from White’s contribution in network theory and German systems theory – yet leaving open space for challenges in theory and empirical studies within the network and other schools of thought at later occasions. Weiterlesen