Seven fundamental ideas that account for the small world phenomena

Today I presented Chapter 8, “The Small World, Circles and Communities”, from Charles Kadushin’s book Understanding Social Networks (this chapter was one of my favorites).  I think we have all used the expression “what a small world” more than once.  This chapter helps readers explore the concept in more detail.  I have attached a PDF of my presentation (Kadushin’s_small_world) just in case you are interested in finding our more.

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7 talks that will encourage you to talk to strangers

TED Blog

Maria-Bezaitis-at-TED@IntelIn today’s talk, Intel engineer Maria Bezaitis brings up a fascinating point: why is the phrase “don’t talk to strangers” such a part of our cultural zeitgeist?

[ted_talkteaser id=1742] “When we’re at our best, we reach out to people who are not like us because when we do that, we learn,” says Bezaitis, in this talk given at TED@Intel. “In today’s digital world, strangers are quite frankly not the point. The point we should be worried about is how much strangeness are we getting?”

To hear what she means by this, watch the talk. And below, check out more talks on the great things that can happen when we talk to people we don’t already know.

[ted_talkteaser id=1603]Hannah Brencher: Love letters to strangers
Hannah Brencher doesn’t just start casual chats with strangers – she writes them intimate, handwritten letters. In this talk from the TED@NewYork salon…

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10 Cool Things Chris Hadfield Taught Us to Do While in Space

Thanks for sharing! I am going to miss following Hadfield’s posts.


Chris Hadfield, on behalf of my comrades here on Earth, we salute your return to terra firma.

While you were cooped up inside the International Space Station as its first Canadian commander from late December 2012 until recently, you submitted several videos to YouTube; videos containing tasks that, if performed here on Earth, would have drawn the nastiest of the nasty YouTube comments based solely on the relatively mundane nature of the things you did in these videos.

BUT! Since you sent them from the International Space Station, everything was exponentially more exciting and interesting. Unsurprisingly, there were still nasty YouTube comments, but no space station in the galaxy can fix that.

Here are your greatest hits, good sir:

You showed us how to cry.

You didn’t actually cry, but you’re manly enough to be okay with crying.

You showed us how to brush our teeth.

It’s kind…

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“Friend” Issues

Have you ever made a Facebook (FB) “friend request” to someone you know quite well,  have many mutual friends in common with and that went unanswered?  This has happened to me.  I know, its time that I let it go.

Have you ever decided to “unfriend” someone or has someone “unfriended” you?  Both have happened to me.  I accepted a “friend request” from a “friend of a friend”.  I had never met the woman but we had many “mutual friends” in common.  The woman’s comments kept showing up in my “In Box” and after a few months of her daily comments about her child’s health, I started to wonder why am I reading this?  She seemed to have a lot of “friends” so I doubt that she ever noticed that I deleted her as one of my FB friends.  I also have a friend who has “defriended” me twice.  The last time it happened she said that Facebook deleted all her friends with whom she wasn’t active and would I be her “friend” again.

And what about those “friend seekers”?  I have one friend who has more than 2500 friends on Facebook.  She has “friended” many of my friends whom she has never met before, they have no mutual friends and they are not public figures.  When I receive friend requests I now have to think, do I know this person and do I need to be online friends with them – and if so, should I only keep them as an “acquaintance”?  I know as I write this I do have to admit that I am “friends” with Barack Obama and I did send author Clay Shirky a friend request today (we do share one mutual friend).

On the plus side, I do like it when I scroll over a Facebook friend’s name to discover that we have a friend in common, especially when it is a bit of an unlikely connection including one across the globe. I do have to admit that there are more happy Facebook moments than sad ones.  I enjoy reading posts, looking at photos and in general keeping up with family friends.  It helps me feel more engaged in their lives.  So despite the friend issues (they are few and far between), I will keep using Facebook.  However, I have recently got into using Twitter and I am having fun with it.  As a result, my Facebook use has declined.  Sorry, Facebook.  Hello, Twitter!

(Please leave a comment – especially if you are not in my Comm 506 class – I would love to hear from you and to hear about your experiences with social media)

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Clay Shirky and Collective Action

Revolution doesn’t happen when society adopts new technologies – it happens when society adopts new behaviors.

Clay Shirky, Here Comes Everybody

This statement by Clay Shirky makes me feel good about the world and how we can use new technologies for collective action and to bring about change.  I find Clay Shirky’s writing and talks are just so accessible.   If you are interested in social media I recommend watching this TED video with Shirky introduced to our class by Dr. Kate Milberry.  It can be found at .  If you like what he has to say in the video, then I recommend reading his book, Here Comes Everybody.  It’s an easy, entertaining and informative read.  Shirky writing reminds me of Malcolm Gladwell, one of my favorite authors.

One of our 2012 MACT cohort was tasked with presenting Shirky’s chapter 6 (Collective Action and Institutional Challenges) to the class.  Greg McIntyre’s video illustrates how new tools can assist collective action .

In the same chapter, Shirky also writes that social tools remove the obstacles to collective action.  Have you ever signed an online petition?  Have you read about Arab Springs or Occupy?  Last year a friend of mine used social media (and other tools) to help find her son who was missing.  Friends, friends of friends, other mothers, the general public, all came together to search for him and to help support the family.  It all unfolded in a very short period of time.  Despite the tragic ending (the young man had taken his own life) what the story demonstrated to me was the power of collective action.

The world feels a lot smaller today than when I was growing up.  New technologies allow information to be shared quickly so we can respond faster and take action when required.  I know I feel better informed about many world issues by reading posts along with shared links from many of my friends.  As a result of the recent stories that came out online after the fire in the garment factory in Bangladesh, my 14 year old daughter and her friends have decided to boycott the clothing line Joe Fresh and have been discussing it in social media.  This isn’t what I was doing when I was 14.  Her behaviour makes me feel pretty good about the world.

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Social Media, Status and Insecurities

I think about all of the different social networks I am a part of and realize how blessed I am to be a part of so many great communities.  I love interacting with my community online via forums (DOC – Documentary Organization of Canada – has a good one that is such a great tool for our industry), Facebook (I have my own page, project pages, a corporate page and participate in a few public and private groups), Linked In (I am still trying to figure out how to get the most of this one – any tips you can offer are more than welcome), Twitter (I still have not figured out how to maximize the hash tags), Instagram (my 14 year old recently offered a few helpful tips), Pinterest (I have a few ideas for boards but don’t have a lot of free time these days), and this blog.  Do people even care what I have to say?  When people respond to my posts, I have to admit that it makes me feel good.  I get a good feeling inside when I receive a notification that someone has accepted one of my requests or responded to one of my posts. I would love to spend even more time on social media but I have to work and attend to my studies.  Social media can be such a time sucker (not to mention, addicting…)

In Chapter 5 of Understanding Social Networks, “The Psychological Foundations of Social Networks”, Kadushin writes about the three motivations to network.  The first being the need to feel safe, effectance (the motivation to reach out beyond your comfort zone), and status or rank seeking.  I didn’t set out to seek status but now that I have been spending more time on social media for this course, I am suddenly paying attention again to the number of friends, followers, posts, retweets, likes –  and admittedly, my insecurities come out. 

When I get annoyed with people and some of what I think are silly posts, I have to remind myself that social media is not reality – people hold back some things and choose to reveal others.  It is not a full picture.  And – why do people choose to discuss their divorce or personal conflicts in this public forum?    And, again with my insecurities creeping out, what do people think about my online presence?  How am I projecting myself?  Should I be holding back more?? I will have to ask my best friend for some honest feedback….

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Networks and the World Wide Web

Network Theory and the World Wide Web

This is my MACT 2012 class of 17.  Today’s lecture and readings were about the evolution of the internet and World Wide Web.

Today’s reading included a chapter on “Network Segmentation” from Charles Kadushin’s text, Understanding Social Networks.  This chapter explored ways to examine cliques, clusters and groups (human and non-human), and to separate networks into smaller segments.   For example, the more direct connection, the more cohesive the group.  For me it is interesting to look at the (now obvious) similarities between computer networks and human/social networks.

Todays’ reading included an interview (Chris Oakes, Wired) with the inventor of the World Wide Web, Tom Berners-Lee.  The article was written in 1999, not that long ago considering how ubiquitous the Web is today.  When I was working on my undergrad in the mid 80’s I was still using a typewriter (with corrector ribbon) to write my papers.  Today as I work on my Masters, I can’t imagine not having my personal computer!  The interview ended with a quote for Berners-Lee saying, “But nobody in that process has added to the ten-year, twenty-year vision of what the Web should fundamentally be and whether it should be changing. I hope that (snip) large companies will continue to fund the research into the more distant future, and that the government will. And that we don’t get this feeling that the Web’s done. People keep asking me what I think of it now that it’s done. Hence my protest: The Web is not done!”.  I look forward to see what futurists like Berners-Lee can do next as they envision a “Web 3.0”.


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