Oct 09 - Social Networks

Social networks have been the focus of much recent research and entrepreneurship. This discourse views social relationships as nodes and links (or ties). Nodes are individual entities (often people) and the links are the relationships between them (parent-child, student-teacher, friend-friend). The people you know are your social network. Social relationships can be characterized on a spectrum from shallow to deep. Some theorists claim that social networks with many weak ties are more valuable than ones with fewer and deeper ties. The premise is that the more connections you have, the more likely that new ideas and opportunities will be introduced to you. This seems to be the guiding principle of many of these new social networking websites. Deeper connections have greater costs in terms of time commitments, etc and tend to have redundant ties. Of particular value in these systems are nodes (people, entities) that can bridge two networks thereby brokering relationships between networks that otherwise are not directly linked.

In 1967, Stanley Milgram made the famous "small world experiment" which claimed to prove that people in the world are separated by at most 6 links. While the experiment is considered to have many flaws, the notion of six degrees of separation has persisted in popular culture.

Social network class notes

some links:
Mark Lombardi
Weak ties and Mark Granovetter

DUE: 4-5 page essay
This essay should grow out of your experiences in Second Life and the social bookmarking website del.icio.us.

  1. Take a snapshot of your SL avatar and attach it to this assignment.
  2. Describe the appearance of your avatar in Second Life in depth.
  • does your avatar resemble you?
  • do you change your appearance frequently or do you have one standard appearance?
  • what motivated any changes your made?
  • did you ask others for feedback on "how you look"?
  • have you spent any money on your appearance? How much? On what?
  • do you like how you look in Second Life?
  • are there changes you'd like to make but can't due to lack of funds, skills, etc?
  1. Conduct interviews with 2 other people in Second Life (who are not in our class).
  • be sure to inform them that you are doing research for a class and that nothing they tell you will be posted publicly to the Internet.
  • ask your subjects questions about their own appearance
  • what motivates the way they look (certain gestures, purposefully androgynous, dressed as an animal or object)?
  • summarize each subject's comments
  • reflect on the role/meaning of appearance in Second Life. How does the way people form identities in this environment differ/align with Real Life. What were your expectations and how did they measure up to your actual experiences?
  1. Finally, compare and contrast the experience of constructing your new alter egos - your new visual + virtual Second Life self/avatar and your new metadata del.icio.us self. Specifically address how your notion of privacy is different with these identities than in Real Life (RL).


Friends, Friendsters, and MySpace Top 8: Writing Community Into Being on Social Network Sites. by danah boyd

The Rhythms of Salience: A Conversation Map by Judith Donath

Judith-Donath_Conversation-Map.pdf64.5 KB
danah-boyd_Friends_Friendster_Top8.pdf2.8 MB