Monday, November 24, 2008

Shirky Reading

With the increase of social networking sites and the advancement of the technologies that foster them, the likelihood of increasing ones contacts is inevitable. Sites such as Facebook, MySpace, and Internet relay chats allow us to be interconnected with one another like never before. As discussed by Shirky, author of Here comes everybody: The power of organizing without organizations, the chances of coincidently meeting a friend of friend are more likely thanks to the ways that these social networking sites work. There are several factors that contribute to the advancement of our connections with one another. This phenomenon is referred to as “Small World networks” playing on the common saying when one meets someone that they share a friend with “what a small world”.

The concept of “…homophily, or the grouping of like with like” (p.213) is an explanation to the so called “coincidences” that we see all the time when analyzing our social connections with one another. If thought about logically, it only makes sense that these small world networks would allow connection between people with similarities and shared interests. For example, Facebook in its early days allowed you to join a network that consisted of only fellow schoolmates. By only being connected to people that attend the same school, the pool of people from which to choose to interact with narrows greatly.

Another factor contributing to the success of small world networks is the idea of how closely connected they actually are. According to Shirky, “…large groups are sparsely connected” (p.215). This means that there is a greater likelihood of connecting with others who you might not know directly when the connections are loose. This allows the connection to grow, whereas if everyone literally knew everyone, there would be no room to connect with others.

The internet and its amazing advancements have led people to experience one another like never imagined. For instance, Facebook know has a feature where it offers people you may know and how you are connected to one another. These sites may be used for socializing, meeting potential life partners, expressing ideas, getting help and advice, and even for political campaigns. So the question remains, is it really a small world out there? With the technology out there today, connecting people like never before, the answer is no, it is not.

Shirky, Clay. (2008). Here comes everybody: The power of organizing without organizations (chapter 9). New York: Penguin.

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