Daniel Allington, The Open University
1 October 2013
Centre for e-Research
Anatomy Museum Space
King’s Building (6th Floor)
King’s College London
According to Bourdieu, the value of art, literature, etc is a form of belief that is produced within the cultural field and then propagated outwards into wider society through public-facing cultural institutions – as in the case of the ‘writer’s writer’ who is initially read only by his or her peers, but who becomes ‘consecrated’ (i.e. canonised) thanks to peer esteem and eventually finds a mass readership through school or university syllabi. In this talk, I shall lay out two innovative methodologies for studying these processes through social network analysis. This is potentially controversial because of Bourdieu’s much-discussed preference for Multiple Correspondence Analysis. However, I shall argue that, just as the abstract mathematical space of Multiple Correspondence Analysis forms a useful analogue for Bourdieu’s conception of field, the no-less abstract structure of a directed graph forms a useful analogue for his understanding of the production of value within a field, and of its subsequent propagation beyond that field.
The first of the methodologies I shall present focuses on the production of value. It has already been trialled through a case study of interactive fiction, with results of this investigation to appear in my monograph, Literature in the Digital Economy (forthcoming from Palgrave, 2014), and elsewhere. As I will argue by reference to ongoing research, the same methodology can potentially yield important insights when applied to other cultural forms.
The second of these methodologies focuses on the propagation of value, and thus provides a possible approach to the study of the impact of the arts on wider society, as well as a bridge between the two major strands of research in the sociology of culture, i.e. study of cultural producers and study of cultural consumers. It builds on the first methodology but presents arguably greater difficulties with regard to data collection and the interpretation of findings. However, these difficulties are instructive because they raise deep questions about the use of social network analysis in cultural research, both in the humanities and in the social sciences.