The questionfor this week is:

Think up two social networks of which you are currently  a member. Analyze the structure of each of these networks, make clear what the dependency relationships are, and what coordinative mechanisms are used.

  • The first network, after facebook, that I currently participate in and came directly to my mind is the Erasmus Mundus Program network.

First, I will give a little detail about the structure of this network and the dependencies of each actor.  This can be illustrated from the following graph:

Main actors involved and their dependencies

Erasmus mundus is a European Union program, which offers Master and PhD programs, which involve at least two universities (in different European countries) to which students will have to attend during their studies.

The specific program involves universities in three different European countries; Leiden & Delft University in the Netherlands, Chalmers University in Sweden and Graz University in Austria.  It also involves 3 non European universities; Waseda University in Japan, Asian Institute of Technology in Thailand and Rochester University in New York.

So in total we have 6 universities, and 18 students spread on the 1st year to each of the 3 European universities.  Specifically 5 students are in the Netherlands, 5 in Sweden and 8 in Austria.

It is logical that the main actor, which is decisive for the existence of the program is the European Commission who is the one approving the programs and the scholarships distributed.  The funding from the European Union is catalytic, since the existence of such a program is expensive, both for students as well as for the universities.  So this explains the two arrows deriving from the European commission box.  Moreover, it is a more perplex system regarding administrative matters, especially when the universities don’t have already a master program with the same title and the students will have to enroll to a program from which they will not graduate, because they are going to move to another country/university.

For the program to run, the universities must be responsibly organized and correspond to the demands of the program and offer a quality education.  The main university which is responsible for administrative matters is Graz university, which is the one that coordinates the program.  But still the main guidelines are decided by all universities together and each university is self organized regarding the exact curriculum and structure of program.  So the Erasmus Mundus program functions like an external control for the universities framing the general concept of the program.

Another significant actor are the students, whom without their participation the program wouldn’t exist.  On the other hand students are also dependent on the program and they have to follow the rules set by the university or otherwise they will fail to survive in this “system”.  It seems like when students are in the system they are fully dependent on the demands of the program and have no choice of refusing following it, without severe consequences for their end results.

  • The second network I recently became a member of is the SHIFT association network.  Shift is an association for industrial ecology students, consisting of 43 members. There is a 4 person board, of which each chair person is responsible for
  1. IT/communication
  2. Business
  3. Administration
  4. Public relations

There is also a president, who is the main coordinator and is one of the 4 chair persons.  So there are four groups to which the rest of the members belong, with the opportunity of participating in as many of the groups they like if they have the time for it.  It is voluntary to participate, so there are members that are not active at all, attending only some of the events and members who are involved to more than one group.  Of course belonging to the board, doesn’t mean that someone has more power decision making than the rest of the members, but is responsible in  coordinating and taking immediate decisions when necessary.

Main actors involved in SHIFT and their dependencies to each other

Shift is recognized as a student association by the university but not from the government.   So this means that there is no funding opportunity and the main argument for that is that it is a very small network and not every small group of students can receive funding for creating their own association.  Students give a symbolic amount of money for their member subscription only the very first time they subscribe.  For upcoming events students will have to pay on their own unless sponsors are found!  So the main actor for the existence of the organization and of course influencing SHIFT the most, is the students, who are strongly motivated to continue being involved, although the situation is not fruitful yet.