Bringing Trippy Theory to the Safe World of Business, Composing, 01/04/2015

I’ve started researching the basic principles of sociological social network theory. It’s for multiple purposes. The kind of blog posts this will probably constitute are collisions of one expert in a humanities discipline with the concepts of another. Social network analysis is a very quantitative and mathematical discipline, and a lot of my thoughts on going through Charles Kadushin’s book regard the implications of how easy it is to describe human social behaviour with mathematics. 

In the context of my writing work, the science of social networks will be very important in understanding what I’m currently calling network politics. 

This is my spin on anarchist approaches to politics that will incorporate the modern libertarian critique of state authority (with which I agree), but overcomes the problems of the libertarian economic principles which encourage oligarchy and the development of a permanent mass underclass who lives in increasingly deeper poverty as the value and quality of manufactured goods shrinks with aggregate demand, reinforcing and being reinforced by the continuing downward pressure of workers’ wages.

The problem with writing about network theory is that it's
so abstract. I think I'll just have my accompanying images
be random graphics of networks that I find lying around
the internet.
Well, that was a very long sentence. 

In the immediate term, I’m concerned with my new career in corporate communications. There are a lot of aspects of this field that I don’t really want to be involved with, like agency-for-hire jobs, or product PR jobs. I just don't think I'd like those kinds of hustles. There are some promising opportunities showing up on the jobs boards for communications positions in the health care industry, and my internship is also with a public service organization.

The long term focus of my new career will be in strategic communications, and internal communications management in large organizations. For this kind of work, a solid grounding in theory is important. Speaking in a human resources sense alone,* I consider it a way to develop more nuanced ways to use the communications tools and products that we’re taught in my program at Sheridan.

* I originally described this as a ‘mercenary’ sense. Comme çi, comme ça.

Here’s one example, still abstract, but here it is. Think of the entire communications industry as the practice of creating networks. Consider just the basic level of a single message. An essential element of any communication strategy is evaluation, a mechanism to judge whether your strategy and its different component activities achieved what they were designed for.

Evaluation tracks reception, uptake, and feedback; how well your communication physically reached its targets, the degree to which its receivers understood it, and whether those who understood it acted as you wished them. 

Here’s what that means in the terms of network theory. You or your organization is a node in a network, a network that’s generated by acts of communication, and all the individuals and organizations are other nodes. Your evaluation methods should figure out how many other nodes your communication should have reached, which actually established a one-way link with the initial act, and which formed a reciprocal link with you. 

Network analysis can create nuanced interpretations of all these interactions, understanding the characters of different information and action flows among people simply from tracking their affects. The only company that I’ve interacted with who uses network analysis this way is Cision Analytics. One of their workers gave a talk at an evening conference at Centennial College that I attended in 2014, and I found it a fascinating subject to discuss. I just wish she had been given more time.

I even think I’m going to buy a fairly inexpensive program for generating social network diagrams and analytics, though I’m not sure which ones will give me the most value for my money. I’ll probably be one of the only people since some of these programs were developed who is thinking of using network analysis software for his business career.

But you never know. I won’t know for sure how useful social network software and theory will be in a corporate communications job. It depends on the job, really, and how much leeway I’ll have from my employers to do new things and experiment with evaluative techniques. I’ll also have to practice with the program, and as I’ve never actually used one of these programs before, my learning curve might be a bit long.

You never know until you try, though.

1 comment:

  1. Huh, that's not what "comme ci, comme ça" means OR how it's spelled.