Social network analysis (SNA) is an emerging field that attempts to quantitatively measure relationships among people or things. SNA has been used to study social capital and its effects, information flow on social media and in the classroom, co-citation author networks in academia, and more.
SNA posits that information flows through a network of people via social connections. Thus, if a person has many social connections, they have access to more information. Information is the currency of SNA. The more information channels that flow through a person, the more power she has in the network. For example, if the biggest gossip in class starts a rumor, it’s going to do more damage than if the shy student tells her shy friend; the gossip, with her many friends, has access to more social groups (more information channels), so whatever she says has the potential for widespread distribution. For SNA researchers, distributive potential indicates a powerful social position.
People in the network are called “nodes,” and the connections between and among them are called “edges.” The network of Davidson’s founders uses men mentioned in the Presbytery minutes as nodes. Edges exist between two men if they served on a committee together that dealt with the logistics of creating Davidson College.