This research area responds to the growing importance of heterogeneous network structures, which connect individuals, objects, meanings, organisations, regions, and states in the present-day society. The subsequent transformations in science, education, business, politics, arts, civic society, and other spheres in Germany, Europe, and Russia require joint efforts of various scientific disciplines within the international field of network analysis.
The area includes two main avenues of the CGES research. The first one jointly studies cultural and social structures. It is focused on how the evolution of meaning/knowledge networks is related to the changes in social networks, which is particularly relevant in the context of knowledge societies emerging in Europe and in Russia. The second research avenue revolves around creativity and innovation, questioning how new ideas emerge, develop and get implemented into objects, structures, and processes. Both of the avenues utilize network-analytical approach at inter-personal, inter-group, and inter-organisational levels to study social and cultural microdynamics in German, European, and Russian contexts and examine spatial embeddedness of social and cultural network structures, which spread across borders, and thus link regions and states across Eurasia.
Up until 2017, the research work in this area was primarily organized as part of a four-year interdisciplinary international research project ‘Co-evolution of Knowledge and Communication Networks: Structural Dynamics of Creative Collectives in European Cultural Capitals’ (2014-2017), supported by the Russian scientific foundation for Humanities and the Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation (Presidential Grant). The project explored how communication in creative collectives conditions emergence of collective-specific knowledge structures and how these structures, in turn, affect communication. The project developed a mixed-method socio-semantic network analysis and, to apply it, gathered a set of longitudinal ethnographic and textual data on creative collectives located in five large European cities: St. Petersburg, Hamburg, Barcelona, Madrid, and London. The project was run in close collaboration with international researchers based in Germany, Spain, the UK, and the Netherlands. It also involved scholars from around the world, including the USA, Australia, and Canada. Multiple mobilities and scientific exchange events between Russia, Germany, and Europe were organized as part of the project.
In 2018, another international anchor project was launched in the area, namely, ‘Dynamic of sociocultural network structures: Analysis of European creative collectives’ (2018-2020), supported by Russian Foundation for Basic Research. This study seeks to identify the socio-cultural mechanisms underlying social development and statistically models socio-cultural micro dynamics utilizing the previously gathered rich longitudinal dataset on European creative collectives. The project involves collaborators from Germany, Europe, UK, US, and Australia, as well as a number of CGES affiliated researchers and students.
In addition, affiliated researchers of the CGES and other scholars interested in German and European studies conduct a number of individual research projects within this research area, getting financial, administrative, and advisory support for their research activities in Germany and Europe from the CGES. For instance, the study ‘Tönnies-Weber-Kovalevski-Sorokin: Early Contacts of Sociologists of Russia and Germany’ by Nikolay Golovin, St. Petersburg State University aims to unveil unknown and little-known scientific ties in Russian and German sociologies in the period of their formation. Another example is the study ‘Russian computer scientists in the UK: Migration, career and diaspora knowledge networks’, conducted by Irina Antoshchuk, European University at St. Petersburg and St. Petersburg State University. Her project explores collaboration of migrant Russian-speaking computer scientists with other Russian-speaking researchers in the UK. The study ‘Brand consumption in Spain’ conducted by Mariia Drozdova, Autonomous University of Barcelona examines communities of brand consumers using socio-semantic network analysis to find out how social ties between consumers condition their shared brand perceptions.
Two series of major international events continuously organized by the CGES are associated with this research area. One is the biannual conference Networks in the Global World, which primary goal is to bring together networks researchers from around the globe, to unite the efforts of various scientific disciplines in response to the key challenges faced by network scholarship today, and to exchange original research results. The other one is St. Petersburg Summer School on Network Analysis, which introduces German, Russian, and European students to basic concepts, tools, and skills of network analysis with the help of internationally acknowledged teachers every other year. Both of the series make a particular emphasis of the focal topics of the research area, such as the co-evolution of social and cultural networks, socio-semantic network analysis, and network analysis of innovation and creativity.