The Political Networks Section aims to provide a multidisciplinary space of convergence for scholars that, while holding diverse research interests, share an analytic approach to network processes in political life, coupled with a strong attention to the integration of theory and empirical data. Political networks are here conceived of in a broad sense - as defined around political actors (individuals, organizations and/or institutions), events that are relevant to the political biographies of individuals as well as around the use of digital communication technologies within political dynamics. Thus, ties can consist of exchanges of resources, information, and symbols, as well as of collaborations and communications that may occur both on- and offline. Leaning on this framework, the Political Network Section includes following Panels:
Panel 1 - Social Movement Networks
Chair: Mario Diani
The network perspective has emerged in the last twenty years as a flexible and powerful tool to analyze the diversity, dynamics, and complexity of collective participation. In spite of its constant growth, relevant issues remain open to further investigation – such as the link between the political context and the structure of movement networks; the complex mix of organizational and individual agencies within collaboration and conflict structures; the progressive redefinition of mobilization predictors. The Panel invites applications of network analysis to the study of social movements, protest and participatory networks from a range of perspectives, from mechanisms of individual recruitment to inter-organizational alliances, cultural and discursive dynamics.
Panel 2 - Dealing with political networks in times of big data
Chairs: Isabelle Borucki, Javier Ruiz Soler
The analysis of social network site data is becoming increasingly important within political sciences. A huge digital socioscope is available with numerous possibilities for research as the footprints left by users can be collected from different API(s) and analysed. Political trends, reception processes and the democratic quality of online discourses could be estimated via social networks. However, despite the potential field of research opened by social network site data and social network analysis, it contains some caveats: The question remains how valid and reliable those data are, and what kind of inferences we can make from the network analysis. The Panel welcomes Papers addressing theoretical and/or methodological contributions related to the issue of political communication on SNS by using SNA.
Panel 3: Climate Change Policy Networks
Chairs: Petr Ocelík, Karin Ingold
Climate change is a ‘wicked problem’ that involves a number of complexities including challenges to governance and policy making. Climate change governance can then be seen as an assemblage of diverse actors, who influence policy-making and policies centered on the climate change issue through patterned interactions that stretch across scales. Use of SNA provides key insights into the underlying relational structures of such assemblages and thus contributes to improve coordination and learning processes - a necessary condition for effective policy response. The call is open to substantive, theoretical, and methodological contributions on one-mode networks as well as to applications of two-mode or multi-level network analysis which connect political actors on different levels, or ecological units affected by climate change.
Panel 4: Linking policy networks and policy learning: Social interactions, belief updates and policy change
Chairs: Cécile Riche, Manuel Fischer, Stéphane Moyson
Learning dynamics are social as much as cognitive: belief updates by one policy actor do not only depend on his or her cognition, but also on the nature of interactions he or she has with other policy actors. Despite this social nature of learning, only a few studies rely on SNA to examine policy learning dynamics. Which networks foster policy learning? Which forms of policy learning do they facilitate? How do networks contribute the transformation of individual learning into collective learning? Which methods of analysis are appropriate to study of the interplay between the cognitive and social nature of policy learning? How do learning, resource interdependences, and exchanges interact, within policy networks? What are the ultimate effects of this interaction on policy changes? We call for Papers addressing these questions from a conceptual or empirical perspective.
Isabelle Borucki, research associate from the University of Trier works on governing parties and political actors’ social media discourses using SNA. Her dissertation “governing with the media” investigated longitudinally how mediatisation and digitization influenced government communication. She is convener of the German standing group on political communication.
Mario Diani is Full Professor of Sociology and the Head of the Department of Sociology and Social Research at the University of Trento. His research interests cover network theories of social movements and collective action.
Manuel Fischer is Tenure Track researcher at the Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, Department of Environmental Social Sciences and lecturer at the University of Bern, Institute of Political Science. He applies models of SNA to the study of institutional arrangements and interactions between actors involved in policymaking.
Karin Ingold is Associate Professor at the Institute of Political Science and the Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research, University of Bern; and Head of Policy Analysis and Environmental Governance at the Federals Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology. She applies SNA to analyze how policy processes and actors’ interrelations shape outputs as legal revisions, policy instruments, and new actors’ arrangements.
Stéphane Moyson is an assistant professor at the University of Louvain, Belgium. His research deals with behavioral public policy and administration, in particular knowledge use, policy learning, and policy change in economic and technical sectors.
Petr Ocelík, assistant professor at the Faculty of Social Studies of Masaryk University, works on climate change policy networks in the Czech Republic, issues of public acceptance of energy infrastructure, and mixed-method applications of SNA.
Cécile Riche is a PhD student at the University of Louvain, Belgium, at the CMAP. Her PhD deals with learning in policy making around the issue of science and research policy.
Javier Ruiz Soler. PhD candidate from the European University Institute in Florence, and visiting scholar in the DiMeNet Research group of the Annenberg School of Communication in Philadelphia. His dissertation explores the European political Twittersphere by using SNA.