Monday, November 24, 2008

Its a Small World After All

In today's reading for class we look at Shirky, Clay (2008). Here comes everybody: The power of organizing without organizations (chapter 9). Last week in class Professor Stromer-Galley ask the question of what an organization was and can you have organization without organizations. I did not know what she was getting at until this reading. Shirky talks about two different ways that this could possibly work.

In the reading Shriky talks about social networking sites and how they work with little outside organization. Shirky bases this on two factors "homophily", dense and sparser connections (Shirky, 2008). The sense of homophily Shirky says is what brings like and like together. I looked at this in the sense that people find common interest in each other and build multiple common interest to build a friendship. This also works online in social networking sites by connections. "Small World networks" as Duncan Watts and Steve Strogatz state have two types of connections (Shirky, 2008). First a dense connection is when a group of people are all connected to each other with no separation. When a message is being relayed everyone will get it. The other type of connection is a sparse connection. this links small groups together by a couple of people in common or that know each other in other groups. Shirky says for a the system to work to its full effectiveness you must use both types of connections "at different scales" (Shirky, 2008).

Something that struck me as interesting was that it was not the many smaller connections that held the system together it was the few people with many large connections that was the backbone. Shirky says "A handful of people are extremely critical to holding the whole network together, because as the network grows, the existence of a small number of highly connected individuals enables the very trade-off between connectivity and effectiveness that makes the Small World pattern work in the first place" (Shirky, 2008). After reading this I started to wounder if these few people with such a large number of connections really knew who important they were, and if they do would they do anything to disrupt the system?

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