For today’s reading, we were assigned to read chapter 9 of Clay Shirky’s Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations. Shirky explains relationships within social networks. The chapter starts off by comparing how small this world is, and almost uses statistics on explaining why or how we would coincidentally run into people in the ‘real world.’ In Shirky’s explanation, it is made clear that it is not in fact that the world is small, rather it is due to the fact that we are connected to each other, and have built some sort of relationship/connection amongst a certain group of people through social networking or through people we know in common.
Shirky explains the research by Duncan Watts and Steve Strogatz, which is known as the “Small World network.” This research shows we are first connected through people in one certain group, and within that group, each individual is connected to someone who belongs to a different group, which enables each of the group members in that certain group to be tied to other people who do not belong the group you belong to. Shirky talks about adopting strategies such as “dense and sparse connections.” These strategies allow you to connect within a smaller group, and then connecting all those small groups together in order to build a bigger network. This can be related to a tool that is newly available on Facebook. Facebook has made a tool called “People You May Know.” In this list, there are people who you are not friends with, but people whom you have friends in common with. It allows Facebook members to meet or friend people through the relationship of common friends, or it can be served as a tool where you can find people whom you are already friends with, but just never knew they had a Facebook account.
I found the last section of this chapter to be interesting. The section is titled “It’s Not How Many People You Know, It’s How Many Kinds.” This section talks about the Ronald Burt’s research on relationships amongst things such as good/bad ideas, social structure and capital. The research takes a closer look at the relationships in the staff of a company. By connecting with people in the company, the staffs are able to come up with good ideas, but also bad ideas or failures as well. This idea can not only be related to companies, but to anyone in other situations. It is always good to build a large social network for various reasons. One reason that we can relate to as college students is searching for a jobs. By knowing a lot of people and being connected through a large network, you have more options and it is easier to find a job through the help of people within your social network, or even through people you may not know, but the people in your network knows.
We all belong to a social network, whether it may be big or small. In my opinion, building new connections and finding people within a network is not something that requires much effort. Such tools on Facebook makes it a lot more convenient for us to “add a friend” to our network on Facebook. Although it is always a good thing to have a large social network, there can also come negative outcomes from it as well. It all depends on the kinds of people you connect with, and the way you carry yourself within these social networks.
Shirky, Clay (2008). Here comes everybody: The power of organizing without organizations (chapter 9). New York: Penguin.
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