Network Theory | Multidimensional Networks and the Dynamics of Sociomateriality: Bringing Technology Inside the Network

Noshir Contractor, Peter Monge, Paul M. Leonardi


This article explores the theoretical implications of developing multidimensional social networks that include nonhuman technological elements. Using ideas from actor-network theory and sociomateriality, we develop a typology for multidimensional networks that includes multiple kinds of nodes and multiple kinds of relations. This typology includes traditional types of nodes, like people, and traditional types of relations, like “shares information with,” along with types of nodes that are technological artifacts, like databases, and types of nonhuman relations, like embodiment. In this way, technology is moved inside the social network and becomes an inherent part of it. An illustrative case shows how the inclusion of nonhuman artifacts and relations in the networks of an automobile design firm significantly changes our understanding of the emergent dynamics in this sociomaterial network. These results are extended by an exploration of how to develop multidimensional, multitheoretical, and multilevel models that include technological artifacts and relations.

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