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And they told 2 friends, and they told 2 friends, and so on, and so on….

May 9, 2012

In the recent provincial election, I think there were some excellent examples of how social networks influenced the diffusion of information.  I will speak to this from a personal perspective.  I have a twenty-one year old daughter who was informed, but undecided until just before election day.  The campaign on YouTube regarding strategic voting is what helped her and many of her friends decide who to vote for.  This campaign effectively diffused the message to a group of early adopters at just the right time.  They were ready to hear it as they didn’t know who to vote for and this helped them make that decision at the last minute.  The video I have linked to is definitely aimed at young people (there are many more on You Tube you can look up as well).  If we try to relate this example to some of the key points from Kadushin this week, this is how I see it:

  • Diffusion -YouTube was used to quickly and effectively diffuse the message
  • Tipping Point – release of the videos caught all those people wondering who to vote for at just the right time
  • Threshold – the diffusion and adoption happened so quickly, it is hard to say if a threshold was reached – I guess it would have happened at the voting stations
  • S-Shaped curve – I think because of the short timeframe, the curve would have reflected a very short early adopter stage followed quickly by “late” adopters – who really weren’t that “late”!
  • Influencers – young people depicted in a video, speaking the language of their intended audience, highlighting their doubts and fears and essentially telling them it is okay to vote for someone they may not like as long as it isn’t the Wild Rose Party.  In this case, the video actors served as a model that had an opinion.
  • Causality – fear of a “radical” party getting in caused young voters to vote strategically
  • Opinion leaders – in this case friends of my daughter connected via social media to discuss whether strategic voting was the right thing to do – they collaborated and then made up their own minds.  I’m not sure if anyone in particular stood out – it was more about the conversation and influence of the actors in the video. In this case persuasion rather than merely making information available was what was important.
  • Betweeness – the groups of young voters were linked by the concept and persuasion of the videos – these were groups that might not otherwise have been connected – new ideas came from the periphery and were definitely unconventional
  • Peer group influence – not much need to explain this one!
  • Concentrated exposure – this was definitely at play – quick blasts from social media followed by lots of chatter among the members of that social group meant the influence also came from all directions.
  • Rewiring small worlds – this was at play where the voting norms were turned on their head with a new strategic plan – it was new, radical and gave young people a voice which they felt could make a difference.

Networks, influence and diffusion…definitely alive and well in Alberta politics!  For those who were not watching TV in the 80’s and are wondering where the heading for this post came from click here to find out!

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May 9, 2012

After today’s in class discussion around the Prisoner’s Dilemma, I had to share this clip of a UK gameshow that illustrates this concept beautifully.  Please scroll down on the webpage to the video clip – you’ll see what I mean!

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Social networks – the red thread

May 8, 2012

How many times have you heard “it’s such a small world”?  Every time we make a link to someone through someone else, it seems like a miracle that we know them.  When we realize that our interests create social networks that bring those with similar interests in focus and increase the chances of knowing someone within that world, it makes a bit more sense and doesn’t seem like such a crazy coincidence.  I think the size of someone’s world (their social network) is directly proportional to the person’s willingness to communicate and make connections.

I work with someone that has incredible stories of connections regularly – so many you start to wonder how she could connect with so many people so often.  But when you get to know her, you understand why.  She is so friendly and caring and is always going out of her way to help others and get to know them by making connections with them.  She is a definite people person!  I have to relay the most amazing connection I have heard her tell me, which really had nothing to do with her, but rather with her husband, Peter, (who is also a people person) and her son, Kyle (who by association is likely social as well).

Her son was living in Vancouver and was invited to a birthday party one evening.  He didn’t really feel like going, but felt he should probably make an appearance.  Unbeknownst to him, a girl named Danielle was also invited to that party and had considered not going, but decided she needed a break from her studies so would go for an hour or so.  Well needless to say, Danielle and Kyle met – the birthday boy was known to both of them for different reasons.  They hit it off and started dating.  After their first official date, they started making connections that seemed unbelievable.  It turns out that Kyle’s Dad had stayed with Danielle’s parents in Hong Kong over 25 years ago.  The link was that they were all missionaries.  While Kyle knew his Dad had been to Hong Kong, he didn’t know anything about the people he had stayed with.  Kyle’s Dad hadn’t stayed in touch with Danielle’s parents and had no contact with them following his visit.  Danielle was raised in Hong Kong and had come to Vancouver to attend post secondary.  Long story short, Kyle and Danielle were married this past January and  Kyle’s Dad was reunited with Danielle’s parents at the wedding.  They even found a picture of Danielle and Kyle’s Dad – she was a toddler helping him pack his suitcase for his return back to Canada 25 years ago.  A coincidence?  No.  A robust social network? Yes!

Danielle and Kyle may have both been raised in different countries, however, the red string that tied them together was their common religious faith background.  Their faith background had them socializing in the same circles.  Their meeting may have been a chance meeting, however, not chance as we might first think considering they lived in a big city and were raised half a world apart. Propinquity and homophily definitely played a role in this meet up!

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Networked collaborations – ants, people and organizations

May 6, 2012

There are varying levels of networked collaboration with perhaps the most utopian example found in one of the most primitive of insects, the ant.   Benjamin Phelan discusses how the ants (and other insects) work so well together that their colony essentially creates an organism where each ant has a job to do to make the colony live – he describes it as each ant performs part of what becomes a superorganism (the parts of the colony join to make one “life form”).  Is this what mankind should be striving for?  Creating one harmonious world where every person does their part to ensure the greater good of the whole? Sounds wonderful, but certainly not attained through democracy!

A study of social network theory, and in particular how networks work within organizations, shows that organizations are not democratic environments.  Human organizations are run by leaders who are appointed (not voted in) and workers are expected to do as leaders say – kind of like the ant colonies.  As I look at this theory, though, I don’t think it holds true in reality.  Sure we don’t vote in the leaders of organizations, however, we choose where we work and in that way are choosing our own leaders.  We need to do what is deemed to be required by those leaders to be in the best interests of the whole, but we are able to vote with our feet if need be – it is still a choice (unfortunately for many the need for a pay cheque often outweights the need to make a statement).  Democracy doesn’t mean that everyone is free to make decisions, rather they have a voice and are free to make suggestions – in the end someone has to be responsible for the decision made – something like the queen ant’s role.  Even in open source environments, while everything is shared freely, the final product is chosen by someone to move forward with.  Linus Torvald makes decisions about what will be used and not used in the kernel all the time.  Democracy allows the informal relationships to bloom. Fortunately, for most people today, successful organizatons are becoming more adaptive and as such incorporating more horizontal structures, or you might say, becoming more democratic.  Horizontal structures are necessary for organizations to react to rapid changes and adapting is crucial to staying alive in our global market world. The employees voice is being sought and heard more often by organizations – however, the leaders still need to be there to make the hard decisions.

Benkler illustrates several examples of where people work together for the betterment of others on a volunteer basis.  While this seems like a utopian vision from a distance, when we look closer it is easy to see that decisions are still being made by one or two people.  Like the ant colony, there still needs to be someone running the show!

Theo Raadt is a local (Calgary) open source guru who has made huge contributions to the online world.  His personality is not one that people warm up to and he has been known to be a bit of a dictator, however, his open source contributions are great.  Like the ant colony, he allows the contributions of many, however, the final decision on what contributions are used is still his.

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Survivor – a confession from a stressed MACT student

May 4, 2012

Okay, it is confession time.  Don’t judge me, but  last night I watched Survivor.  Survivor is one of my escapes, but this week I am going to feign that I was studying social networking and not really addicted to a mindless reality TV show. Please indulge me for a minute as I do a quick recap for those that may not watch (for those that do and have it sitting on their PVR – SPOILER ALERT). Last night, a Survivor participant named Kat won a reward challenge and chose to take the “leader” with her on the reward.  This leader had snubbed Kat the week before and had taken someone else higher up in her alliance on her reward.  (Bear with me as I will get to the Social Network link here soon.)  Kat has been identified as a follower and is not considered to be one of the top members of her alliance. In addition she is young and quite naive – always trying to get in with the “in” crowd – kind of like a puppy always leaping up for attention.  Anyway, here is where the social network theory comes in…In Chapter 6 Kadushin talks about how the more popular people in a small informal group will not likely choose a less popular person, however, a less popular person will likely choose the more popular person over another less popular person.  According to Kadushin, this is a form of social climbing.  Survivor portrayed this concept beautifully as Kat tried to climb the social ladder of her alliance.  For those that are interested, did it work for Kat?  Sadly, no.  She was actually voted off the island as other members of the group thought she was being selfish and had overlooked other people who deserved the reward more than the leader.  Okay, maybe not a full illustration of Kadushin’s informal social network explanation, but you get the idea and I get to feel less guilty about spending valuable time watching reality TV!

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Networks are about more than community

May 3, 2012

Kadushin in his book Understanding Social Networks, states that networks are about community, not about getting things done.  I find this to be contradictory to the article Social Networks and Cooperation in Hunter – Gatherers, where it was discussed that social networks are formed in a Tanzanian tribe to facilitate cooperation – which is in turn used to get things done and facilitate survival.  I find this is the same in today’s world.  While I enjoy the community provided by my social networks, I also recognize that those groups often help me get things done – they are the people I call upon in times of need – they often help me survive whether it is personally or professionally and I in turn will do the same for them.  This is why those that survive the social network media world are those that reciprocate, are quick to help and ultimately cooperate with others.  Social media networks breed kindness to facilitate cooperation.

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Network Segmentation Efficiencies

May 2, 2012

Kadushin in his book Understanding Social Networks talks about one of the major tasks of network theory and analysis being the need to separate  large networks into smaller segments where the smaller segments cannot overlap with one another and must exist on their own; this is referred to as Blockmodeling.  This theory was utlized in the development of the ARPANET.  For different reasons, the partitioning of data known as packet switching was developed independently in two different countries (the U.S and the U.K) at approximately the same time.  Basically the blockmodelling of small pieces of information would allow the transmission of information more efficiently between computers in the same way that partitioning large social networks results in a more efficent social network. As we look towards Web 3.0 and the need to compartmentalize information, social network theory will likely guide this process.

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Is the internet an evolution or a revolution?

May 1, 2012

Kate’s statement that the internet is evolutionary caught my attention today in class. I will agree that the tool itself has revolutionized how we communicate, but I firmly believe it has come to be through an evolutionary process.  In COMM505 in the fall term, I was fortunate to work with Lenore and Diane on the first assignment and our topic was “Gutenberg’s Printing Press: Ideation to Transformation”.  As part of the research on this essay we contemplated whether new communication tools were revolutionary or evolutionary.  My perception would agree with Winston (1998) who argued that “what is hyperbolised as a revolutionary train of events can be seen as a far more evolutionary and less transforming process” (p. 1) In short I believe communication tools are evolutionary – one tool does not exist without the prior tools.  There is an evolution from ideation to supervening social necessity to prototype development to invention to transformative spinoffs.  The development of the Web wasn’t as quick as we perceive it to be, as it took from the 60’s to the late 90’s to really take off.  The iterations from Web 1.0 to 2.0 and soon 3.0 appear to me to be the transformative spinoffs in the evolution of this tool.

Reference:

Winston, B. (1998). Media Technology and Society, A History: From The Telegraph To The Internet. London: Routledge.

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Understanding Social Networks

April 30, 2012

Welcome to my blog.  Over the next three weeks I will be blogging about insights I gain in regards to social networks and the tangents I may veer off in as I study this subject in my Communications and Technology Master’s program through the Unviversity of Alberta.  I look forward to this three week journey and invite you to join me!