ASNA conference 2006

Two of my papers were accepted this week at 3rd Conference on Applications of Social Network Analysis at the University of Zurich, Switzerland.

Here are the abstracts of our papers:

Networked Collaboration – Collaborative Networking:
How to integrate external and alumni knowledge into the organization

Ines Mergel
Harvard University, USA

Christian Kruse
University of Zurich/ETH, Switzerland

Organizations are faced with more and more complex forms of collaboration – work is no longer neatly organized within intradepartmental teams. One of the major reasons is the segmentation and more and more growing industrialization of the value chain as well as of the division of labor within the knowledge economy. Technology continues to drive changes throughout the value chain from techniques of performance and modeling in portfolio management through advanced means of risk handling and easier pricing and settlements. Rapid changes in communication infrastructure, computer capacities, data storages as well as collaborative models and platforms will drive more structural changes by enabling outsourcing across the value chain. New – more temporary – forms of organizing projects are currently evolving: project team members are oftentimes geographically dispersed across different continents and time zones and staffed with colleagues from different disciplines. We also noticed an additional empirical phenomenon: within the financial industry, collaborators are drawn from a huge network of former colleagues, alumni, partner organizations such as consultants, independent agents, freelancers etc.

This multidisciplinary, multipurpose and multilevel collaborative network includes a multitude of knowledge, experience, contacts and business opportunities. For every organization this network of internal, external, alumni, current and potential collaborators, extends and partly dissolves the organizational boundaries: external collaborators become part of the organizational knowledge base. Within the collaborative networking process the organization has to find ways to explicate the knowledge existing in the network, to be able to tap into the next time a similar project is launched. In our presentation, we will highlight the different forms of networked collaboration – collaborative networking, identify potential data sources and show ways how to analyze the existing social network data using Social Network Analysis techniques.

Online vs. Offline networking:
What are the success factors of sustainable online social networks?

Ines Mergel
Harvard University, USA

Thomas Langenberg
Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland

Recently, the Pew Internet & American Life Project published a study about the number of social relations people maintain online and the omnipresent question was raised again: are actual face to face contacts declining over time and are they replaced by online social interactions. Our virtual life is scattered in online profiles across sites such as openBC.com, Friendster.com, Match.com or MySpace.com. There are currently more than 400 different online social networking sites – with new sites popping up every day. In our paper, we address two key research questions. We start out with an examination of whether such online sites can be sustainable over time. Building on these results, we explore the factors, which determine success or failure of online social networks.

Our research draws on prominent issues areas in the social network literature, which address the gap between research on offline and online social networks. We utilize the concepts of social capital (structural and relational embeddedness), knowledge sharing and information processing (the “search/transfer problem”) and decay of ties in social networks to conceptualize the individual-level mechanisms and incentives that constitute online social networking. The paper contributes to practitioners and academic scholars alike. We develop recommendations on how online social networks can become sustainable over time, and we develop questions and avenues for further research.

Our paper is conceptual in nature. From the literature, we build a maturity model for the creation, maintenance and deletion of online ties over time. We are looking at different types of networks (e.g., personal vs. professional networks, information vs. advice networks) as well as at the different content areas of ties. Furthermore, we present a research design, which we are currently implementing, in order to test the theoretical model.

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About Ines Mergel

I am Full Professor of Public Administration at the Department of Politics and Public Administration at University of Konstanz, Germany. Previously, I served as Assistant and then Associate Professor (with tenure) at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University, NY. In my research, I focus on informal social networks in the public sector and the adoption and diffusion of digital service innovations in government organizations. I teach classes on social media management, digital government, public management, and social network analysis.

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