Social Networks 2016
Just about all of us participate on some sort of Social Media. A network like Facebook is mostly symmetrical in that if I send you a Friend Request you have to approve it for us to connect. A network like Twitter is asymmetrical in that unless your Tweets are private or you’ve blocked me, I can just follow you and be updated on your posts. When Twitter tells you that I’ve followed you you might follow back. Or not.
The many online and mobile platforms where we express identity and interact with friends & strangers are loved and hated in many ways. As a culture we spend a lot of time there.
Social Networks 1616
Digital Networks have put the term Social Network on the tip of everyone’s tongue. But you don’t actually need a mobile device, The Internet, or a computer at all to have a “Social Network”. It’s just what human beings do.
Robin Dunbar proposed an idea now known as The Dunbar Number which suggests that there’s some limit, perhaps about 150 people, that one can have stable social relationships with. It’s pretty crazy to think about the ramifications of this in an age of 5,000 Facebook “friends”.
The Strength of Weak Ties
Another huge idea in Social Networks comes from Mark Granovetter’s article The Strength of Weak Ties. Granovetter argues that when you’re looking for something, like maybe a job, or a date, that it isn’t your “strong ties” or close friends and associates, that tend to introduce new jobs to apply for or new people to date, because you already have so much overlap with your Strong Ties. It is your Weak Ties, people on the periphery of your network, who tend to have new resources that your strong ties don’t.
Fiber Art Social Network
For our Activity this week, we’ll use my office, FO4-267, to create a Fiber Art Social Network. We’ll need 5 things to do this. You can bring 2, and I’ll bring 3:
- A photo of yourself. Around the size of your ID Cards: 6″ x 4″
- A colored piece of paper to fit behind your photo and make it look like a “node”
- Staples – to staple your node to the wall
- T-Pins – to tie connections to your node
- Yarn – to draw lines from you to Art110 classmates you know
This week you can move between the SOA Gallery Courtyard and FO4-267 as you like. Go to either one first and then head over to the other when you’re ready. FO4 is Faculty Office building #4 and it’s right behind FA4 (Fine Art building #4). The SOA Galleries are between FA2 & FA3, so you just walk from The Galleries, past FA3, over to FA4, and then behind it to FO4. Then go up the stairs to the 2nd floor to room 267.
You can staple your node to the wall, and then use yarn to connect to classmates you “know”.
- Include a photo from FO4-267
- Do a drawing (with a pencil, computer, or whatever you like) of your own Social Network. You could do family, friends, co-workers, or a combination of them. It could look like the one we create in FO4-267, or you might find a different way to visualize the relationships in your life. You might show how some of the people in your social net connect to each other. You might use cues like different line colors or widths to indicate different kinds of relationships to different people, or different strengths of relationships.
- Do you think of the term “Social Network” as applying to your RL life and your RL, physical friends? Or mostly to Online & Mobile tools that connect you to people in cyberspace?
- Does Dunbar’s Number make sense to you? That we can only have around 150 truly meaningful relationships, and any others we know will be in more fragmentary ways?
- What does it mean to have 1,000 or 2,000 or 5,000 Facebook “friends”? Who are these people? What sorts of relationships do you have to them?
- When we visualized our Art110 Social Network, or when you visualized your personal Social Network, did anything surprise you? Did you find any connections or relationships that you hadn’t thought about or realized any different connections?
- What’s your Personal Number? How many people would you like to have close relationships with in your life? 1? 10? 100? 1,000?
- Do you have more “friends” on Facebook or some other platform than are truly your “friends”? What is your relationship to those “extra friends”? Have these weak ties ever brought you new resources like a job opening, someone to date, a cool event, info for something you were working on, etc?