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Mathematics LibreTexts

5: Using matrices to represent social relations

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.