The Microsociology of Interdisciplinarity: Graduate students as networked social actors and cultural objects in motion

Regina Smardon, University of Virginia - Institute for Advanced Studies In Culture
Empirical network analysis has begun to take seriously the ways in which cultural meaning can structure social networks (Lizardo 2006; Yeung 2005). We propose that social actors must conform to emergent rules of social interaction and the constraints and affordances of their network position, while cultural objects must conform to the rules of cultural motion (Urban 2004). The meaning of cultural ties within a network of cultural objects becomes distinctive through metacultural processes. Our research is based on a one-year ethnographic study of an interdisciplinary cancer research center which in turn was part of a larger mixed methods NSF funded study investigating the social organization of innovation. We explore the role of graduate students in a network of interdisciplinary cancer researchers to see how the forces of cultural motion and the rules of social interaction shape interdisciplinary collaboration. Implications for analyzing social and cultural networks are explored as well as implications for science policy research on interdisciplinary collaboration.
March, 28 2011 | 12:30 - 14:00 | 329 Soc/Psych, Duke University

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