Social networks, movements, activism & social support …

Reflecting on the last 3 weeks of: Understanding Social Networks – concepts, issues, and connections swirl in my cluttered mind. Comm506 and @KateMilberry provided a rich venue to learn about the dynamics of social networks experientially with my classmates … face-to-face & in the affordances of the web. Grateful for this social network!

Over the last week, we – #comm506 engaged in discussions/presentations relating network affordances to social movements and activism. The week ended with Dr. Keith Hampton’s research and insights on online connectivity, social support, and the empirical case for positive effects of online interactions in making relationships persistent, pervasive, and diverse.

As I continue to connect the dots from the past three weeks, a comment made by my classmate Michelle in her presentation on movements/activism resonates … be engaged via the networks that we are afforded.

Social networks – online and offline can be the essence of stability/safety, hence social support. However, they are also the place of change – the drive of society’s evolution. So, be & stay engaged … it is essential for health and well being, on both the personal and collective levels.


The IMC … a model explained by crowdsourcing, Pro-Am movement & commons-based peer production

Reading Dorothy Kidd’s article – The Independent Media Center (IMC): A new model took me back to comm503.

Her discussion of how this network operates to coordinate dispersed alternate forms of information sharing online and offline beyond the traditional media outlets was inspiring as to the possibilities in collective action. Clearly, this movement has a cause, as she states: “ the IMC was no accident, but the result of historical conjuncture of an emerging social movement” – one seeking justice in a world matted in diverse global inequities. The IMC seems to be a broker of power. Its capital lies in its ability to reach beyond traditional sources for sharing and transferring information. Given information and knowledge is power in networks; I would say the IMC is well on its way to meet its vision/mandate of developing a global communication commons.

It seems that the IMC has all the unpinnings required: crowdsourcing (Shirky), Pro-Am movement (Leadbeater & Miller), and the virtues of commons-based peer production (Benkler & Nissenbaum).

Democracy & networks of power … feeling politically minded tonight

After spending a weekend myopically focused on a research project/poster presentation for comm501, thought it was time to reflect on something much bigger than me.

Good starting point: (Un)Lawful Access: Canadian Experts on the State of Cybersurveillance … a must watch for all Canadian’s who cherish our democratic society, civil liberties, and the networks we engage with via the technologies of the time. Bill C-30 in essence is “big brother watching you in your connected networks” by design. Is this disconcerting? … most certainly.  As an informed part of the electorate, I do not support legislation designed to monitor and control the flow of information online based on intuitive spidery senses. Furthermore, the suggestion back in February indicating that this bill was for protection of children is worrisome. Because I do not support this legislation, does in no way mean I do not care about children and their vulnerability online. Also … looking at this from a social network lens, I am bothered by the notion of the ripple effect that bill c-30 will have on the civil liberties of online-connected members of society. Troublesome to think that a power node such as the government could potentially rewire the online-networked environment!

Perhaps this “surveillance by design” legislation would stop the need for robocalls during elections, because they already know what I am saying, planning, and doing online!

Thx comm506 for providing me the opportunity to verbalize my reflections on bill c-30 and @KateMilberry for providing opportunity for dialogue.

If you too are concerned … check out the OpenMedia website

Social capital … a recurring thread in understanding social networks

As a network – comm506 has explored and discussed many theories and concepts over the last two weeks, gaining insight into the inner workings of social networks. We interact in social networks daily – online, face-to-face, and in this current era of the web … our ever-changing relationships blend the two spaces.

As a group, comm506 has learned that social capital is complicated in networks. It can act as leverage/influence; it creates bridges amongst our nodes by brokering diverse relationships and often unexpected interactions; and can even diffuse new ideas and practices in our social world.

Today, our classmate Heather presented social capital through the lens of the social network in the sitcom The Big Bang Theory. The episode – Penny’s Christmas gift to Sheldon highlights another recurring thread associated with networks and social capital … the “generosity” of sharing whatever you can offer with others. The ripple effects in network generosity can be amazing!

Heather very eloquently presents Kadushin’s take-away points on Networks as social capital. So in the spirit of network generosity and the sharing of information … please click on the links to visit her blog and view her presentation. Moreover, follow her @HHdgray.

Networks, influence, and diffusion … theoretical underpinnings

Well, comm506 classmates … today is the day I try to make sense of Kadushin’s theoretical concepts publicly. Transmission versus diffusion; s-shaped curves and epidemiology as an illustrators of diffusion in networks (perhaps even as predictors of diffusion); tipping points and thresholds; leaders – influencers as agents of change in our networks … all contribute to rewiring our networks and bring about change in our evolving world.

Wish me luck and I hope a have a little social capital in this comm506 network to prop me up, when needed! Will update this site a bit later …

May 9th, 2012 afterthoughts … my take home points from chapter 9

  • Transmission and diffusion of ideas, practice, and innovation in networks are not the same.
  • Core to transfer of ideas, practice, and innovation in a network – is the existence of actors in that network, who adopt and emulate change … they are influentials in the diffusion model.
  • Diffusion model assumes the social network is connected with actors that influence via homophily and opinion leadership. Through modelling of innovation within and across the network, these change agents create connections that result in a small world network phenomena for the adoption and diffusion of ideas, practice, and innovation in social systems.
  • Tipping point, when the idea takes off without influence from external sources. Moreover, change or adoption is no longer incremental. Threshold is the point in the life of an idea when adoption occurs.
  • Kadushin indicates that the diffusion model is illustrative of how change is adopted, and how influence – impacts and rewires networks. Epidemiology is one field that is useful to illustrate diffusion in social networks, but not predictive of adoption.
  • Christakis presents a contrary view of predictive nature of epidemiology in social networks  … interesting to consider a differing view!

COMM506 – Kadushin-chapter 9 presentation

Networks & small world theory … always in play

In comm506, we have spent much time pondering theories and concepts related to network theory. Today was a personal and experiential “wow” moment regarding – small world, social circles, homophily, propinquity, and weak-strong ties.

Spring 2011 brought Denise and myself together via @uaxMACT … hum … homophily and propinquity. However, it was not until today that I could truly relate the network theory of small world and social circles as it centers on people and relationships. During comm501, Denise illustrated a research methodology concept with a personal example. Wow, Denise has been in my MACT network for a year and I did not know that her father – Dr. David Young was my professor at two different periods in my student-professor social circle … hum … weak ties. Denise, your father is an inspiring educator – a compliment that you can share with your strong tie.

Truly a small world … we are connected and networked in social circles & clusters. Ties can be strong or weak, and are fluid. They can be rooted in propinquity, homophily, or both. Moreover, we do not always know when our connections with others will come to light … so be generous with all relationships, strong or weak … as our network interactions always ripple through the small world.

Is it all in the math or is it much bigger?

[small world+(circles+clusters)]+[coordination+collaboration]=collective action

Kadushin provides us with the theoretical underpinnings of social networks. However, it is Shirky – one of the “rock stars” in the area of media studies/social software … who highlights social media’s technologies-network effect, on society and the economy in a manner that explains the phenomena we see today as – collective action.

Collective action is so much more than aggregates of individuals explained via small world, circle phenomena, homophily, etc. It embeds the affordances of the social software platforms that have become ubiquitous in today’s connected-networked society. Collective action is seen in the coordinated-collaborative efforts of the return of Ivanna’s lost phone – the “sidekick” in Here comes everybody (2008, Shirky):

     “The whole episode demonstrates how dramatically connected we’ve become to one another.  It demonstrates the ways in which the information we give off about our selves, in photos and e-mails and MySpace pages and all the rest of it, has dramatically increased our social visibility and made it easier for us to find each other but also to be scrutinized in public.  It demonstrates that the old limitations of media have been radically reduced with much of the power accruing to the former audience. It demonstrates how a story can go from local to global in a heartbeat. And it demonstrates the ease and speed with which a group can be mobilized for the right kind of cause” (pp. 11-12).

According to Shirky (2008) in Collective action and institutional challenges – central to collective action is the lowering of transaction costs afforded by our social technologies and the Internet. Moreover, within networks – weak or strong – sharing information and the collaborative process requires minimal hassle. The gap between intent and action has narrowed … “what technology did do was alter the spread, force, and especially the duration of the reaction, by removing obstacles”.

The return of the “sidekick” is one example of how “ordinary tools” of the Web 2.0 era, has resulted in the extraordinary coordination-collaborative effect among a network of weak and strong ties to mobilize into collective action.

So yes, it is more than math … the missing variable in my equation is:         +[social media technology] … the requirement for coordinating and lowering transaction costs.

Organizations and Networks or Organizations are Social Networks … what will the vision be?

Kadushin (2012, Understanding Social Networks) speaks to formal organizations, as organizations in a box. Bound physically and culturally in modern tradition and hierarchy. However, what happens when these walls break down – physically, socially, and metaphorically? Will the title of this blog simply be … organizations are social networks?

This discussion has brought to mind the new “Lego” building on the UAlberta campus, the Edmonton Clinic Health Academy (ECHA). The vision of breaking down the walls of the healthcare disciplines on campus is truly exciting … a primary priority of the Edmonton Clinic Health Academy, both architecturally and philosophically, is to apply new tools and curricula designed to facilitate the continued cross-pollination of thinking. This way of working can lead to new ideas, better solutions and streams of research that may have never come to light working in isolation (University of Alberta: ECHA, 2012).

The metaphors that aim to direct this new collaborative venture of healthcare students, educators, and researchers include …  free the best minds; explore faster, see further; cross-pollination of thinking; intersection of discipline. They emulate the affordances of social networks.

Will the ECHA artifact in its architecture and technological capabilities act as a bridge to embed social constructs of network theory, and allow the vision of a knowledge driven organization to metaphorically … free the best minds; explore faster, see further; cross-pollination of thinking; intersection of disciplines? According to Kadushin, density of interaction and brokerage of interaction will play an important role in realizing connections that otherwise would not exist. Further, will the physical and technical architectural artifacts facilitate propinquity among healthcare disciplines, and lower the transaction costs sufficiently that collaborative relationships flourish? Only time will tell … but is has been great to reflect on the changes within an organization that I am familiar with, from the lens of organizations as social networks. I will continue to watch the evolution of the ECHA and look at the interplay of the diverse healthcare disciplines and think … inside the box, outside the box or both?

How do I sum up this week’s learning?

As I reflect on a great week of learning in comm506, aka social networks … finding it hard to succinctly sum up my thoughts. So many terms, concepts, and connections made … some new and some revisited. Since this learning journey is about new affordances of knowledge, and connections occurring from and in the web … thought I would try another new technical gift the web provides to connect my thoughts …

If Yochai Benkler and William Deresiewicz met for coffee …

Last spring institute our class reflected on Deresiewicz’s article: “The End of Solitude”. Reading Benkler’s final section of chapter 10 – Social Ties: networking together brought to mind what wonderful discourse the two could have over coffee, and wouldn’t I love to be a fly on the wall in that coffee-house!

Essentially, Deresiewicz prescribes to the notion that engagement online or with other technological platforms is not meaningful, reflective, or creative … and by extension marks a shift in human nature from selfless, community conscious individuals to one driven by visibility. I suspect Benkler would question Deresiewicz’s thoughts regarding the impact of online connectivity on the youth of the Web 2.0 era, and the social networks they form.

Yes, Web 2.0 has changed the digitally connected individual and how they interact in their social spheres. However, people still function holding the core underlying drive of survival and sociability … which encompasses motivations such as safety and affiliation, alongside effectance – just as we have for ages.

Much has changed, but much is still the same. Some things are lost, but some things are gained. Is this not just the evolutionary nature of social networks?