A new paper by the CORPNET group has been published in the Global Networks journal. The article, “When theory meets methods: the naissance of computer assisted corporate interlock research”, is written by Meindert Fennema and Eelke Heemskerk and can be found here.
In this article, we study the emergence of computer aided network analysis as an example of ‘Mertonian’ multiple discovery. Computer assisted quantitative network analysis emerged around 1970 and small groups of researchers in different universities, who were independent of each other and looking for the right concepts and computer programs to implement graph theory in social analysis, first applied it to corporate interlock networks. We show how mathematical graph theory provided a toolbox for systematic network analysis and that simultaneously in the Netherlands and the United States this toolbox found an application in the study of corporate power. A historical narrative covers the three main centres in which large-scale corporate network analysis emerged – Amsterdam, California and Stony Brook. For each centre, we provide a sketch of the people involved, the tools they used, and the motivations that brought them to this topic. Our analysis makes clear that one cannot understand the emergence of computer aided network analysis without considering the personal and often political motivations of those who engaged in the first board interlock studies. Insurgent students of political science and sociology pushed for a research agenda on corporate power and found support from scholars who were keen to develop innovative network analysis methods. Hence, corporate network analysis became a legitimate field of research.