The Role of Metanetworks in Network Evolution

Journal of Mathematical Sociology
The question of what structures of relations between actors emerge in the evolution of social networks is of fundamental sociological interest. The present research proposes that processes of network evolution can be usefully conceptualized in terms of a network of networks, or ‘‘metanetwork,’’ wherein networks that are one link manipulation away from one another are connected. Moreover, the geography of metanetworks has real effects on the course of network evolution. Specifically, both equilibrium and non-equilibrium networks located in more desirable regions of the metanetwork are found to be more probable. These effects of metanetwork geography are illustrated by two dynamic network models: one in which actors pursue access to unique information through ‘‘structural holes,’’ and the other in which actors pursue access to valid information by minimizing path length. Finally, I discuss future directions for modeling network dynamics in terms of metanetworks.