NetSCI Lab

Welcome to the NetSCI Network Science research lab at Rutgers University School of Communication and Information. The NetSCI lab is dedicated to producing cutting edge networks research, advancing theories of social networks, methods for network analysis, and the practical application of networks research. Researchers in the lab are focused on the study of organizations and communities across multiple levels of interaction, connecting theory to practice, and informing the design of networks in everyday life.

Communicating in social networks inside and among organizations

Inside organizations: The company chart or the formal hierarchy is considered the way communication is supposed to flow in an organization. The hierarchy’s structure shows the most powerful members (managers, owners, CEOs) of the organization by listing those members towards the top, while the employees who report to such members are listed in lower levels of the chart. In the formal hierarchy, those at the top hold positions where they are ascribed control of money, decision making, and related responsibilities. On the other hand, the social network inside organizations refers to the informal flows of communication between and among members. The social network describes who actually communicates with whom, as opposed to who is supposed to communicate with whom. The way people are positioned in the social network of the organization has implications for their ability to control information flows (e.g., gossip) and their informal power and influence because they hold that information-based control.

Outside the organization: Organizations and businesses often build formal and informal alliances with other organizations to manage uncertainty in their environments, to get resources and outsource work, and to coordinate work to accomplish goals that they would not be able to accomplish individually. There are networks of organizations (“interorganizational networks”) that collectively create a broader community and social infrastructure. That interorganizational network includes organizations that are more connected or hold relationships that put them into powerful positions in the information-flows. Related, the overall network can have a structure that supports information flows because organizations connect across a variety of organizations. But the overall structure can also be fairly unconnected, which can put particular organizations in positions of greater power.

The Social Network Communication, and Organizing Puzzle: Whether the social network is inside a particular organization or among a community of organizations and businesses, social networks change over time, involve members whose connections can range from fairly isolated to highly inter-connected by having ties with a variety of organizational partners. The overall networks can also be fairly sparse, meaning information does not flow throughout the network, to fairly dense, meaning network members are all connected to each other. The overall structure can also privilege only a few select members because it is highly centralized (only a few members hold connections across other members of the network) or fairly decentralized, meaning no one network member has more connections than any other (power and influence is thus dispersed). Research shows that history, the quality of relationships, competitive forces, information and resource needs, and a generally engaged orientation towards problem solving are factors that can influence the ways organizations build up and change their networks over time. And these organizations’ networking activities impact the ways the overall system’s social network structure changes over time. These various factors that are both controlled locally and impacted by system-wide factors create a puzzle for scholars and practitioners, alike. And driving our NetSCI Lab goals is the challenge to make sense of and build a better understanding of the role and impact communication has on these organizing processes.

Partners

Annenberg Network of Networks at University of Southern California

The Science of Networks in Communities (SONIC) research group at Northwestern University

The Network Science Institute at Northeastern University