Forces of agglomeration and dispersal in rural business networks: a social network analysis

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dc.contributor.advisor O'Reilly, Seamus en
dc.contributor.author Sloane, Alan
dc.date.accessioned 2016-06-02T09:06:38Z
dc.date.issued 2016
dc.date.submitted 2016
dc.identifier.citation Sloane, A. 2016. Forces of agglomeration and dispersal in rural business networks: a social network analysis. PhD Thesis, University College Cork. en
dc.identifier.uri http://hdl.handle.net/10468/2671
dc.description.abstract Two concepts in rural economic development policy have been the focus of much research and policy action: the identification and support of clusters or networks of firms and the availability and adoption by rural businesses of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT). From a theoretical viewpoint these policies are based on two contrasting models, with clustering seen as a process of economic agglomeration, and ICT-mediated communication as a means of facilitating economic dispersion. The study’s conceptual framework is based on four interrelated elements: location, interaction, knowledge, and advantage, together with the concept of networks which is employed as an operationally and theoretically unifying concept. The research questions are developed in four successive categories: Policy, Theory, Networks, and Method. The questions are approached using a study of two contrasting groups of rural small businesses in West Cork, Ireland: (a) Speciality Foods, and (b) firms in Digital Products and Services. The study combines Social Network Analysis (SNA) with Qualitative Thematic Analysis, using data collected from semi-structured interviews with 58 owners or managers of these businesses. Data comprise relational network data on the firms’ connections to suppliers, customers, allies and competitors, together with linked qualitative data on how the firms established connections, and how tacit and codified knowledge was sourced and utilised. The research finds that the key characteristics identified in the cluster literature are evident in the sample of Speciality Food businesses, in relation to flows of tacit knowledge, social embedding, and the development of forms of social capital. In particular the research identified the presence of two distinct forms of collective social capital in this network, termed “community” and “reputation”. By contrast the sample of Digital Products and Services businesses does not have the form of a cluster, but matches more closely to dispersive models, or “chain” structures. Much of the economic and social structure of this set of firms is best explained in terms of “project organisation”, and by the operation of an individual rather than collective form of “reputation”. The rural setting in which these firms are located has resulted in their being service-centric, and consequently they rely on ICT-mediated communication in order to exchange tacit knowledge “at a distance”. It is this factor, rather than inputs of codified knowledge, that most strongly influences their operation and their need for availability and adoption of high quality communication technologies. Thus the findings have applicability in relation to theory in Economic Geography and to policy and practice in Rural Development. In addition the research contributes to methodological questions in SNA, and to methodological questions about the combination or mixing of quantitative and qualitative methods. en
dc.description.sponsorship Irish Research Council (Government of Ireland Postgraduate Scholarship) en
dc.format.mimetype application/pdf en
dc.language.iso en en
dc.publisher University College Cork en
dc.rights © 2016, Alan Sloane. en
dc.rights.uri http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/ en
dc.subject Rural development en
dc.subject Economic geography en
dc.subject Economic sociology en
dc.subject Social network analysis en
dc.subject Mixed methods en
dc.title Forces of agglomeration and dispersal in rural business networks: a social network analysis en
dc.type Doctoral thesis en
dc.type.qualificationlevel Doctoral en
dc.type.qualificationname PhD (Commerce) en
dc.internal.availability Full text not available en
dc.check.info Indefinite en
dc.check.date 10000-01-01
dc.description.version Accepted Version
dc.contributor.funder Irish Research Council en
dc.description.status Not peer reviewed en
dc.internal.school Food Business and Development en
dc.check.reason This thesis is due for publication or the author is actively seeking to publish this material en
dc.check.opt-out Yes en
dc.thesis.opt-out true
dc.check.entireThesis Entire Thesis Restricted
dc.check.embargoformat Both hard copy thesis and e-thesis en
dc.internal.conferring Summer 2016 en


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© 2016, Alan Sloane. Except where otherwise noted, this item's license is described as © 2016, Alan Sloane.
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