This weeks course readings revolved around several key points associated with social media which have their roots in early traditional communication and social network theory. While these theories are often laden with complicated mathematics, the concepts and approaches they portend are easy to relate to and offer a unique way of understanding or considering the new world of social media.
Consider first that a sociogram can be a simple diagram showing the relationship between you (EGO) and others (nodes). The connections we form between each other are called edges, and when diagrammed connect us like little sidewalks connecting houses. These sidewalks indicate relationships and can have directionality to express how the relationship exists between connections (one way if you know them, they don’t know you – or two way, you both know each other). When many people are adjacent to you (you have a direct relationship with them), this is called a neighborhood. When a very tightly formed neighborhood exists, one that is fully connected or only having a few gaps – this is known as a clique.
The “sidewalks” joining us together can be either weak or strong depending on your familiarity with the person you are joined to; these are referred to as weak or strong ties. Those with a lot of strong ties are often considered power brokers of what is called “social capital”. This clout allows them to be heard by many, but also to exert a great deal of influence over their sprawling neighborhood, which may actually look more like a suburb, city or continent thanks to the scale of the internet!
As we ponder some of these concepts in the context of social media, and for me – specifically in the space of Enterprise 2.0, my mind begins to spin with research questions as I consider what the neighborhoods within industry look like.
- Where do the industry “sidewalks” take us, and who lives there? Does the “house” (node) have someone we value due to their knowledge and capability? If so, can we see based on the sidewalks and neighbors how much social capital they have in the firm?
- Who is excluded from the clique like neighborhoods within industry and what does that tell us about the culture of the firm and neighborhood? We know information/innovation sharing happens more slowly when there are cliques, so what is the implication for that firm if their “city of neighborhoods” all look like cliques?
- What are the demographics of each neighborhood, and like the urban plight we have witnessed in the “real world” due to dying neighborhoods, are there indicators of “corporate urban plight” on the horizon seen as dramatic changes in the neighborhood (i.e explosive perculation)?
So many questions, so little time to sleep – but for sure, the data being collected within the firm (Ent. 2.0) and outside the firm (social media), offers a wide open playing field to revisit many old social network theories, and uncover many new ones as well. On a personal note, this network perspective and the research that supports it should cause us to pause a moment to consider what neighborhood we live in. Have we unconsciously isolated ourselves in a way that could impact our ability to gain valuable information, learn new things and question our viewpoints, or have we purposely locked ourselves in our “houses” within a closed “gated community”?
I know where I have been living… I also think I hear a moving van pulling up my driveway right now….