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Understanding Large Temporal Networks and Spatial Networks: Exploration, Pattern Searching, Visualization and Network Evolution by Natasa Kejzar, Anuska Ferligoj, Vladimir Batagelj, Patrick Doreian

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10On Studying Large Networks

Our interest in preparing this book was driven by a commitment to coupling substance and methods in a quest to understand large networks and the network processes operating both in, and on, them. This required, for us, the analysis of sound empirical data, an essential feature of scientific research.

Substance without methods amounts to armchair philosophy when the systematic analysis of relevant data plays little or no role. While ideas ‘in the air’ can have a useful place, we are aware of ‘ideas being a dime a dozen’, especially when they are not critically examined by considering systematic empirical information. Similarly, using methods without substance seems an empty endeavor when understanding network phenomena is the central concern. While it may be pointless to compare these two overly limited approaches, we think that methods have potentially greater value for understanding the dynamics of temporal networks and spatial networks than speculations not based a sound scrutiny of empirical evidence. Yes, we are biased regarding this because we are more interested in doing social science than participating in social studies. As we argue in Chapter 1, integrating substance, technique, and sound data is critical for understanding social phenomena. This implies a need to choose very carefully with regard to all components of this triumvirate.

10.1 Substance

Substance, for most researchers, is driven by a deep interest in understanding certain phenomena. ...

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