27 Aug 2010

Burt’s Structural Holes

Research No Comments

Ronald Burt’s (1992) book entitled, “Structural Holes: The Social Structure of Competition” provides an interesting analysis of relationship network utility. I’ll be drawing from this work in my fall course (School-Community Relations). Here’s one excerpt from the Burt text that describes how issues of network size and diversity are relevant:

“Network size and diversity under a presumption of trust are the general parameters to be optimized. The effective size of a network can be less than its observed size. Size is the number of primary contacts in a network; effective size is the number of nonredundant contacts. Two contacts are redundant to the extent that they provide the same information benefits to the player. Cohesion is an empirical indicator of redundancy. Contacts strongly connected to each other are likely to have similar information and so provide redundant benefit to the player. Structural equivalence is a second indicator. Contacts who, regardless of their relationship with one another, link the player to the same third parties have the same sources of information, and so provide redundant benefit to the player. Structural holes are the gaps between nonredundant contacts. As a result of the hole between them, the two contacts provide network benefits that are in some degree additive rather than overlapping… A network rich in nonredundant contacts is rich in structural holes” (p. 47).

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