Social Network Analysis, or Choose a Methodology

I am attending a session at #nlc2010 that is around doing some research using social network analysis, and it has me wondering about how this methodology focuses on what we can say about the overall network itself, something that exists only insofar as the people involved are present. I like the idea of trying to deduce something from studying a composite of the individual experiences, though I am coming to realize I am more interested in asking questions about the development of individual meaning-making, rather than looking at some combination of the summation of them.

I find the more I learn about research, the more I realize that Etienne Wenger, in his comments during the morning session, is right–it is valuable to select a theory to use based on what questions or needs we have. Likewise, it seems the same can be said about methodologies–these also do not answer (or rather do not fit) any question that can be asked.

Have a research question? OK, then choose a methodology / method that works to get an answer to your question.