chapter  10
57 Pages

Contacts and Influence

WithSola Pool Ithiel de

The experience of casual contact and the practice of influence are not unrelated. A common theory of human contact nets might help clarify them both. The quantitative concepts of social stratification and political scientists of influence lend themselves to a rigorous metric based upon the elementary social events of man-to-man contact. The contact pattern for an Indian villager sans radio, telephone, or road to his village is of a very different order from that of a Rotarian automobile dealer. In any given time period during which we observe, a person uses only some of the words he knows and similarly has contact with only some of the people he knows. The political scientist, using an appropriate definition, may use a contact net model to study influence. To describe with precision the structure of human acquaintance networks, and the mechanisms by which social and political contacts can be established, it is necessary to idealize the empirical situation with a model.