Analysing Personal Networks in Geographical Space Beyond the Question of Distance

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2803

Article | Open Access

Analysing Personal Networks in Geographical Space Beyond the Question of Distance

  • Claire Bidart LEST, CNRS, Aix Marseille Univ, France
  • Marion Maisonobe Géographie‐cités, CNRS, France
  • Gil Viry School of Social and Political Science, University of Edinburgh, UK

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Abstract:  Recent literature recognises the importance of situating social networks in spatial context. Yet, the spatial analysis of personal networks has often been limited to examining residential distances between actors. While distance is a central characteristic of social relationships, it is a poor indicator for understanding the intricacies of the geographical space, places and personal networks. This study develops an original approach for mapping and analysing personal networks based on their geographical scope and the distribution of the residential locations of network members in relevant geographical areas. We perform a factor and cluster analysis to identify the major geographical patterns of personal networks using two samples of egocentric networks from France and Switzerland. We validate the approach first by interpreting the patterns both quantitatively and qualitatively, and second by examining how these patterns relate to important social characteristics of respondents and their personal networks. We conclude by discussing the significance of this approach for integrating geographical information into the analysis of personal networks and for rethinking networks and the geographical space as co‐constituted.

Keywords:  distance; geographical space; mixed methods; personal networks; place; social network analysis



© Claire Bidart, Marion Maisonobe, Gil Viry. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.