Understanding Social Networks: Theories, Concepts, and Findings
By Charles Kadushin
Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2012

Review by Matthew Bridgewater, Woodbury University

Introduction What is a Network? Social Network Analysis Ethics Conclusion References
Abstract image of a swirl of green and peach light


Charles Kadushin's (2012) book introduces readers to the concepts and framework of social network analysis and explains some findings that have been generated across disciplines through it. I see this book being beneficial to the readers of Kairos in several ways. Researchers who are already using qualitative and quantitative methods should be interested in reading up on social network analysis through this accessible book. For example, the fields of writing studies and professional communication have drawn on activity theory and actor-network theory. Social network analysis would give these researchers a related framework for answering questions in those disciplines.

This book would also be an important addition to any graduate course on research methods and methodologies. It could be taught along with Clay Spinuzzi's (2008) Network, Bruno Latour's (2005) Reassembling the Social, Gesa Kirsch and Patricia Sullivan's (1992) Methods and Methodologies in Composition Research, Lee Nickoson and Mary P. Sheridan's (2012) Writing Studies Research in Practice, and/or Heidi McKee and Dànielle DeVoss's (2007) Digital Writing Research. While Understanding Social Networks is more of a theoretical book than a how-to book, it does offer researchers useful concepts and frameworks.

As stated earlier in this review, Kadushin's book does not make many direct references to composition studies or even education generally. His examples are typically drawn from economics, biology, and sociology. There are some examples drawn from the workplace, but these didn't explicitly deal with workplace communications. In general, then, readers will have to make their own connections between social network analysis and workplace communication, composition studies, and education. But for those readers who are familiar with activity theory, actor-network theory, and complexity theories, this book should complicate, complement, and supplement these methodologies, leading to productive interactions among these systems theories.

Finally, if one were to ask me what specific areas of writing/composition, rhetoric, and communication I see this book contributing to, I would point to the digital humanities and organizational communication practices. There are many projects in the digital humanities, such as the "Writing Studies Tree" and "Mapping the Republic of Letters," that would benefit from a social network analysis research perspective. Both of these projects seek to map out connections between people and organizations and how information is transmitted, ultimately giving readers a visualization of these connections in a map or sociogram. In addition, the book presents several examples of workplace sociology that could be used as templates for charting communication practices and their implications. Thanks to Kadushin's book, I can see social network analysis providing further insight into the informal lines of communication that are so difficult to study in organizations.