Chapter 5 SOCI.docx - Groups and Networks Paradox The...

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Groups and Networks Paradox: The strength of weak ties: it is the people with whom we are connected who offer us the most opportunities. Outline Social Groups Social groups form the building blocks for society and for most social interaction. The sociologist Georg Simmel argued that the key element in determining the form of social relations in a group is the size of the group, and he emphasized in particular the differences between social relations in a dyad (group of two) and a triad (group of three). The dyad is the most intimate form of social life because the two members are mutually dependent on each other. If one member leaves the group, the group ceases to exist. According to Simmel, when a third person joins a dyad, that person can fill the role of mediator, tertius gaudens ("the third that rejoices"), or divide et impera ("divide and conquer"). As group size increases, the number of possible relationships increase exponentially: in a group of three, three possible relationships exist, but in a group of four, six possible relationships exist. There are a number of different ways that groups larger than a dyad or triad can be characterized. Georg Simmel came up with three categories: small groups, parties, and large groups . The sociologist C. H. Cooley identified two main types of groups— primary groups and secondary groups . Other "group types" include in-groups, out- groups, and reference groups . The Asch Test is an experiment developed in the 1940s that shows how much people are influenced by the actions or norms of a group. From Groups to Networks A social network is a set of relations—essentially, a set of dyads—held together by ties between individuals. A tie is a set of stories that explains our relationship to the other members of our network, while a narrative is the sum of the stories contained in a series of ties. Embeddedness refers to the degree to which ties are reinforced through indirect paths within a social network. The more embedded a tie is, the stronger it is. Sociologist Mark Granovetter developed the concept of the "strength of weak ties" to explain that relatively weak ties can actually be quite valuable because they are more likely to provide new opportunities than a strongly embedded tie. A structural hole is a gap between network clusters, or even between two people, who would benefit from having that gap closed. Social capital is the information, knowledge of people or ideas, and connections that help individuals enter preexisting networks or gain power in them. The existence of high levels of social capital in a community generally means that the community is tightly knit and can come together to face challenges and make improvements.
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