5.5. The Structural Perspective

The structural perspective analyzes the association, arrangement, proximity, or connection between resources without primary concern for their meaning or the origin of these relationships.286[Com] We take a structural perspective when we define a family as “a collection of people” or when we say that a particular family like the Simpsons has five members. Sometimes all we know is that two resources are connected, as when we see a highlighted word or phrase that is pointing from the current web page to another. At other times we might know more about the reasons for the relationships within a set of resources, but we still focus on their structure, essentially merging or blurring all of the reasons for the associations into a single generic notion that the resources are connected.

[286][Com] Of the five perspectives on relationships in this chapter, the structural one comes closest to the meaning of “relation” in mathematics and computer science, where a relation is a set of ordered elements (“tuples”) of equal degree (§5.6.1, “Degree”). A binary relation is a set of element pairs, a ternary relation is a set of 3-tuples, and so on. The elements in each tuple are “related” but they do not need to have any “significant association” or “relationship” among them.

Travers and Milgram conducted a now-famous study in the 1960s involving the delivery of written messages between people in the midwestern and eastern United States. If a person did not know the ...

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