All Linked Up: An analysis on the growth of networks.

Our latest reading is Linked written by Albert-Laszlo Barabasi. The reading centers on research and developments regarding the “network” through time.

  • The reading describes how network analysis originally grew from graph theory. Leonhard Euler, was a Swiss mathematician who first examined graph theory. Euler addressed an issue in a small town called Konigsberg where locals wanted to discover if there was anyway one could, “walk across the seven bridges and never cross the same on twice?” Euler discovered that such a method did not exist by constructing a graph based on the bridges of Konigsberg, he made the various bridges nodes and connected them by links and thus the “network” was born.
  • Linked illustrates a network with the example given on page 14, if you gather a group of 100 strangers, then eventually as human beings have a natural desire for companionship, they’ll begin to form small groups of acquaintances. Then by introducing a small detail to the group, such as a rare wine, the news will rapidly spread by individuals or nodes that bridge the information from one group to another. Types of networks include the society, the internet, a cell, or the brain. And all these networks can be illustrated by graphs.
  • Paul Erdos and Alfred Renyi, two mathematicians who studied the wine simulation suggested the best way to form a network is to connect nodes randomly. By randomly connecting nodes, one will be eventually left with one giant cluster. Where in, one can navigate to anyone else by the navigating the links of the nodes. Similarly, one can say that all humans are apart of a worldwide social cluster, where we can navigate to one another through various connections. Nevertheless, Erdos and Renyi’s theory only takes into account random networks, where all nodes are equal. On the contrary, in the actual society web, networks have distinct class systems such as governments and social hierarchies.
  • Later on, Stanley Milgram, would reveal research that suggests that nodes in a network are less random than Erdos and Renyi thought them out to be. Milgram sought to find the “distance” between any two people in the United States and thus formulated an experiment where he sought to bridge two people by sending letters to randomly chosen residents. If you didn’t know the actually recipient, you would resend the letter to someone who you think might be closer to the recipient. Milgram’s research concluded the famous, “6 degrees of separation.” Similar to six degrees of separation, social networking websites such as facebook, and Myspace list mutual friend lists that illustrate this exact theory. When becoming friends with a NYU student from a different hometown then you, sometimes you’ll find that you’re already connected by a mutual friend. I just discovered that Emma now dorms with a girl who lived down the hall from me last year.
  • A current event that illustrates the six degrees of separation model is the new addition of “lists” to Twitter. Twitter, a social networking website has recently launched Twitter Lists which allows you to cluster users who have similar tweeting topics. Thus one can create, an athlete list, a movie star list, etc. Then people can subscribe to your lists to access the people you follow. So if one is looking for a very funny twitter user whom they don’t know, they might access their friends “Hilarious People List” and continue on the chain until they find exactly who they’re looking for. The new development was designed specifically for people who seek to make Twitter more organized. http://blog.twitter.com/2009/09/soon-to-launch-lists.html
  • Moving along, in 1980 Tim Berneres-Lee sought to make the information in every computer accessible to everyone else, Tim envisioned a virtual network where we all bridge to one another, and this network eventually became the World Wide Web. This made me recall a previous post on our blog called, “The Power of Words,” (http://idm09.wordpress.com/2009/10/04/the-power-of-words/) the post discusses how society has taken technologies from the past and built upon them to apply them to the needs of today. It’s easy to see how networks have grown from groups of immediate neighbors, to long-distance neighbors through postage, to the telephone network, to the internet. Through today’s World Wide Web, we’re allowed to stretch our networks farther than ever before because we correspond to virtually anyone in a matter of seconds. The post also describes how society needs links to help bind and restrict data, because too much data at one time would be overwhelming. Similarly, we need networks to better organize the people we know. Networks help us narrow down the people we know because taking on everyone can be overwhelming. Precisely what the new Twitter Lists are trying to accomplish.
  • Linked later goes on to describe how “six degrees” is a product of our modern society that we have designed to keep in touch or in other words communicate over long distances. In Mark Granovetter’s Social World he describes a network where small fully connected circles are connected by strong ties. Granovetter’s theory suggests that certain nodes can group together that bridge to another group by one link. When thinking about connections like that I recall, Zoom, the picture book by Istvan Banyai. In the book, the pictures unfold as if one is zooming in onto a specific image. Though certain pictures are connected very tightly, they eventually connect to a transition picture that connects them to the next scene.
  • The last network discussed is the Circle Network by Duncan Watts and Steven Strogratz. Their networks illustrates how nodes are connected to immediate neighbors which are eventually connected through long range links. Unlike the previous networks, the Circle Network is not based on random bonds. It has the most structure, it’s very much like a classic character web in literature. Especially in Shakespearian literature, the characters have very distinct connections and relationships that play into a plot. This also shows how a “network” is an integral part in telling a narrative similar to how we’ve made other connections between narratives and media.
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One response to “All Linked Up: An analysis on the growth of networks.

  1. I feel that the idea of linked is not new. It is rather a social phenomenon that scientists try to extrapolate and explain in logical terms per se. Society has always depended on certain people for connections because they were great facilitators. Now, this networking has moved to the world wide web. It is a place without limits and boundaries. It’s a rather scary thought, that we are all connected through others. Social tools such as Facebook has much of our information and who’s our friends, etc…If they were to sell this database to marketers, etc, I feel that it can open a new level of business.

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