Social Networks in Communicative Events

Time: 16.00 - 17.30

Venue: G6; Humanities Bridgeford Street; University of Manchester, M13 9PL

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Speaker: Jan Fuhse, University of Passau

Like everything in the social world, seemingly stable networks of social relationships (as on or off) only exist in the imagination. This reduction has proven methodologically useful, but it can and should be broken up in favor of a more fine-grained approach. The presentation advances the theoretical argument that social relationships constitute temporary stabilization in communicative process. With the analyses of communication itself, and especially with the availability of process-generated time-stamped data of communication, we can work towards reconstructing patterns of social relationships and their dynamics in sequences of communicative events. As a first approach, we can combine quantitative and qualitative methods. This allows interpreting the meanings of different types of communicative events, which may relate actors very differently (e.g. criticism vs. support).

Here I draw on conversation analysis and interactional sociolinguistics to examine the relational underpinnings of communicative events, and to group them in types of relational events (typification). Types of social relationships, then, exhibit specific patterns of relational events. I offer an exemplary analysis of the relations of alliance and conflict in a political debate. Secondly, different ways of relating in communication can be examined in large text corpora through quantitative text analysis. I present a study of the interruptions and reactions between different political parties in the parliament of the Weimar Republic in Germany (1919-1933). Automatically identifiable types of reactions fall into a continuum from supportive to hostile. This allows reconstructing the political landscape of discourse relations between parties. While the analyses illustrate different methodological approaches, they both lend themselves for the study of changing relations and constellations in the political field or in other kinds of discursive fields. They thus bridge micro-methods of communication analysis with macro-patterns in society.