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The Measure of Tie Strength and Their Importance In Networks

In Peter Marsden’s and Karen Campbell’s article, “Reflections on Conceptualizing and Measuring Tie Strength,” they revisit their older study on “Measuring Tie Strength.” As time has passed, interest in the concept of tie strength has remained high. This article is heavily associated with the content with discussed in class, specifically with chapter 3 on strong and weak ties.

In their article they discuss the role of weak ties. Weak ties serve as bridges of novel information between clusters in social networks. Now that data on entire social networks has been gathered and can be monitored, the idea that measuring the actual strength of ties might not be as important as just looking for the bridges that connect these clusters. Marsden and Campbell argue that there is still use in measuring the strength of ties so that one might find the strong ties in a network. They claim that much research in social networks is still egocentric, and focuses less on the total network and more on the properties of individual ties.

They first examine many possible indicators of tie strength as thought up by other scholars. They also question whether resource potential or actualization should be considered when labeling ties. Marsden and Campbell come to the conclusion that the potential to access resources across a tie are more important than having actually done so in the past. The claim that there are outside factors that might prevent a person from providing resources, such as not wanting to force the resources on another person.

They found that while the frequency of interaction had a weak correlation with other measures of strength (and a negative relation to length of acquaintance) other factors such as shared relationships, occupational standing, and education had some correlation.



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September 2012