Today, interest in networks is growing by leaps and bounds, in both scientific discourse and popular culture. Networks are thought to be everywhere – from the architecture of our brains to global transportation systems. And networks are especially ubiquitous in the social world: they provide us with social support, account for the emergence of new trends and markets, and foster social protest, among other functions. Besides, who among us is not familiar with Facebook, Twitter, or, for that matter, World of Warcraft, among the myriad emerging forms of network-based virtual social interaction?
It is common to think of networks simply in structural terms – the architecture of connections among objects, or the circuitry of a system. But social networks in particular are thoroughly interwoven with cultural things, in the form of tastes, norms, cultural products, styles of communication, and much more. What exactly flows through the circuitry of social networks? How are people’s identities and cultural practices shaped by network structures? And, conversely, how do people’s identities, their beliefs about the social world, and the kinds of messages they send affect the network structures they create? This book is designed to help readers think about how and when culture and social networks systematically penetrate one another, helping to shape each other in significant ways.