02.16 Social networks
| Our social world is held together by a web of personal
connections, one's social network. The basic idea is that each person
has a set of people they know directly, though in varying degrees.
Each of those people, in turn, is the center of their own set of
connections. Some of their connections are in common with those of
the first person, while others are not. The people you are directly
connected to are your first degree connections; second degree
connections are those connected to one of your 1st degree connections,
but not directly to you; etc. In the not so distant past, the world
population was made up of numerous independent networks, some very
large, others quite tiny. Today, with the possible exception of any
not yet discovered remote tribespeople, the entire human population is
connected through these chains of acquaintanceship. |
Some parts of this network are densely connected - the individuals have many common acquaintances. These dense areas are close communities, work groups, etc. Such communities may be connected to each other via one or two bridges - the individuals who are members of two otherwise separate networks. Bridges play a key role in disseminating information from one group to another. (If you are interested in reading more about social networks, a good starting point is Studying online social networks, by Garton, Haythornthwaite and Wellman.)
Who you are within your social network is one of the most informative things about you. When we meet new people, we often try to ascertain something of this by trying to discover common acquaintances.
Until recently, however, one could seldom directly see other's social network. Recently, however, they have become visible, at least in part, through "social networking sites", online places where people create public listings of their links to other site members. (Other online entities, such as blogs with their many links to other blogs, also implicitly create social networks.)
For this week, we will be thinking about designs for social network depictions in real-world spaces. Today, when we walk down the street, the others we see are mostly strangers. Yet in fact, some may be more closely connected to us than we imagine - friends of friends, a sister's co=worker, etc. What would it be like to be able to see the invisible social structure that we inhabit?
Please link your work by Thursday morning.