5: Using Matrices to Represent Social Relations
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Graphs are very useful ways of presenting information about social networks. However, when there are many actors and/or many kinds of relations, they can become so visually complicated that it is very difficult to see patterns. It is also possible to represent information about social networks in the form of matrices. Representing the information in this way also allows the application of mathematical and computer tools to summarize and find patterns. Social network analysts use matrices in a number of different ways. So, understanding a few basic things about matrices from mathematics is necessary. We'll go over just a few basics here that cover most of what you need to know to understand what social network analysts are doing. For those who want to know more, there are a number of good introductory books on matrix algebra for social scientists.
- 5.1: What is a matrix?
- To start with, a matrix is nothing more than a rectangular arrangement of a set of elements (actually, it's a bit more complicated than that, but we will return to matrices of more than two dimensions in a little bit).
- 5.2: The "adjacency" matrix
- An adjacency matrix is a square matrix used to represent a finite graph. The elements of the matrix indicate whether pairs of vertices are adjacent or not in the graph.
- 5.S: Using Matrices to Represent Social Relations (Summary)
- Matrices are collections of elements into rows and columns. They are often used in network analysis to represent the adjacency of each actor to each other actor in a network. An adjacency matrix is a square actor-by-actor (i=j) matrix where the presence of pair wise ties are recorded as elements. The main diagonal, or "self-tie" of an adjacency matrix is often ignored in network analysis.