Social networks in arid Australia: a review of concepts and evidence

McAllister, R.R.J., Cheers, B., Darbas, T., Davies, J., Richards, C., Robinson, C.J., Ashley, M., Fernando, D., and Maru, Y.T. (2008) Social networks in arid Australia: a review of concepts and evidence. Rangeland Journal, 30 (1). pp. 167-176.

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Arid systems are markedly different from non-arid systems. This distinctiveness extends to arid-social networks, by which we mean social networks which are influenced by the suite of factors driving arid and semi-arid regions. Neither the process of how aridity interacts with social structure, nor what happens as a result of this interaction, is adequately understood. This paper postulates three relative characteristics which make arid-social networks distinct: that they are tightly bound, are hierarchical in structure and, hence, prone to power abuses, and contain a relatively higher proportion of weak links, making them reactive to crisis. These ideas were modified from workshop discussions during 2006. Although they are neither tested nor presented as strong beliefs, they are based on the anecdotal observations of arid-system scientists with many years of experience. This paper does not test the ideas, but rather examines them in the context of five arid-social network case studies with the aim of hypotheses building. Our cases are networks related to pastoralism, Aboriginal outstations, the 'Far West Coast Aboriginal Enterprise Network' and natural resources in both the Lake-Eyre basin and the Murray–Darling catchment. Our cases highlight that (1) social networks do not have clear boundaries, and that how participants perceive their network boundaries may differ from what network data imply, (2) although network structures are important determinants of system behaviour, the role of participants as individuals is still pivotal, (3) and while in certain arid cases weak links are engaged in crisis, the exact structure of all weak links in terms of how they place participants in relation to other communities is what matters.

Item ID: 29479
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1834-7541
Keywords: arid zones, culture, network analysis, pastoral society, rural urban relations, social structure
Date Deposited: 24 Sep 2013 06:47
FoR Codes: 16 STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY > 1699 Other Studies in Human Society > 169999 Studies in Human Society not elsewhere classified @ 100%
SEO Codes: 95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9599 Other Cultural Understanding > 959999 Cultural Understanding not elsewhere classified @ 100%
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