The shape of networks

“Networks have structures, and structures influence the way individuals and networks behave.” – Rheingold, NetSmart pg192

Rheingold in NetSmart Chapter 5, Social Has a Shape, discusses what social networks look like. He says, “Imagine a circle with seven billion dots on it. Now draw just a few random connections between dots and other dots in other parts of the network, crossing to other parts of the circle instead of restricting the connections to immediate neighbors.” (p. 193). This idea of connections and what a social network looks like got me thinking about the six degrees of separation.

six degrees

Photo from Medium: https://medium.com/@hackerearth/the-theory-of-six-degrees-of-separation-8a92bc5e3221

View at Medium.com

beyonce

The six degrees of separation idea is essential that everyone in the world is only 6 degrees or steps away from knowing someone else. You can find a “friend of a friend” six times over and be connected to anyone else in the world, any one of the 7 billion people on our world today.  (Yes, that means I am only six “friends of a friend” away from knowing Beyonce). 

The connectedness is shrinking the world. No longer are the only people that we know physically located as our neighbors. We can stay in touch with people who move across the country, those people can introduce us to other people, and the world continues to shrink.

So what?

What does this connectedness mean for us? Think about it in terms of looking for a job. There are many people who get hired in their positions because of their specific skill set, but there are also many people who believe that it’s “who you know.” As these networks are growing, and the world is shrinking, and you’re only 6 degrees of separation away from any other person, it becomes very likely that you can leverage your connections to get a job interview.

Wisconsin

When I was applying for jobs a few years ago I was applying to different positions around the UW-Madison campus. I had worked at UW for 2 years and was ready for a new challenge so started looking specifically only on campus. I was in my coworkers office one day, and he received a text saying “Do you know Brittney,” he replied with a photo of me sitting in his office. Turns out, the person who was hiring my position had worked with him at a previous job. My coworker had positive things to say about me, and had enough social capital with this other person he used to work with to get me an interview. Would I have gotten the interview without his recommendation? I don’t know. But it definitely didn’t hurt to have him connected to a network I was about to join.

When you get down to it, it seems overwhelming to try to visualize what a social network looks like. We all have a lot of Facebook friends and Instagram followers so identifying where all of those connections are can be difficult. But in this chapter, Rheingold does a great job of explaining the nuances of this shrinking world.  

 

Posted on October 5, 2018, in Creative, Social Media, Society, Technology. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. After a grad student in 2014 discussed the Wolfram Alpha analytics tool, I’ve been very interested in the connectedness you speak of. Read her post and check it out when you can!

    https://745techprofcomm.wordpress.com/2014/10/26/my-social-network-analysis/

  2. Thanks for linking that post, it was super interested! I went to check out the Wolfram Alpha analytics tool myself to see what my network consisted of and unfortunately it looks like Facebook disables the API that this tool needed to get the information. The only friends it shows are those who have already authorized the Wolfram Alpha app, which in my case wasn’t enough people so it didn’t generate a meaningful network.

    It is a great way to examine connectedness though, it would be interested to identify another tool out there that is capable of doing this.

    • Yep, I noticed that note about the API as well. I understand their reasons why, but kinda wish it would still offer some data. I’ll be on the lookout for other tools!

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