A social graph consists of who an individual is connected to based on the type of connections, such as work, friendship, interests, and location. It differs from a social network, which consists of who an individual is connected to based on the existence/strength of (one type of) connection, such as work. A social graph therefore conceives of connections in a typological way, whereas a social network does so in a binary/spectral way. I.e. a social graph asks what type of connection exists between individuals, whereas a social network simply asks whether the connection exists or how strong it is. Accordingly, a social graph is a more complex/higher-level model of a social system than a social network.
I find the above current definition to be confusing, extravagant, not right, and based on someone’s opinion (which shows why the current Wikipedia model is broken). For example, when you study social interactions and behaviors, you will find that there is nothing “binary/spectral way” on the way humans behave socially. Don’t confuse what a graph and network is, how it evolves/grows, with characteristics or how those are to be analyzed (i.e. degrees, levels, distances, and so on). On the other hand, I found the Wikipedia definitions of Social Network and Social Structures to be good ones.
I understand that the need to differentiate between social structures and networks is an important one, as they are related but not the same thing. For this below I offer a simple, clear and accurate definition for social graphs and social networks, based on observation, practice and accepted definitions:
A social graph:
…a social graph is a structure used for the representation (and implementation) of a social network.
A social network:
…a social network is a social structure that is typically represented by a social graph, that is defined as an instance of all its entities and the relationships between them at a particular point in time, and that is typically related to a particular category or target audience.
An example of a social graph is a traditional Rooted Tree or a Spanning Tree, which in the case of a social network, it would be a tree consisting of nodes that represent a particular kind (category or target audience) of social network. Social networks don’t have to be categorized but typically are, for example LinkedIn, which is a social network that is focused on the category of “individuals and their business relationships”.
The above definition (I hope) helps provide a clear and simple definition, separation and relationship between social graphs and social networks.
Related to this:
- Brad Fitzpatrick’s Thoughts on the Social Graph
- Google Social Graph API
- Social Graph: Concepts and Issues (ReadWriteWeb)
- Mobile Youth is a myth .. (OpenGardens)
[Source of image: Wikipedia page on Social Network. A modified version of source]