Social networks are like the eye
March 3, 2008 3:43 PM   Subscribe

Social networks are like the eye: A talk with Nicholas A. Christakis.

Dr. Christakis' current work is principally concerned with health and social networks. This work takes seriously the contention that because people are inter-connected, their health is inter-connected. Christakis, like a group of other scholars researching social science questions, uses Facebook to gather data about how people form social relationships.

From the Edge article:
We are thus at a moment where a leap forward in the methodology for the study of social networks has been made, firstly by building on past work. But secondly, we are at a moment where — because of modern telecommunications technologies and other innovations — people are leaving digital traces of where they are, who they are interacting with, and what they are saying or even thinking. All of these types of data can be captured by the deployment of what I call "massive passive" technologies and used to engage social science questions in a way that our predecessors could only dream of. We have vast amounts of data that can be reapplied to investigate fundamental questions about social organization and about morality and other concerns that have perplexed us forever.
posted by sveskemus (5 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I heart Edge. (Unpleasant example of Language is a Virus: RIP William Burroughs.)

Although I am not a Facebooker...and I hope this thread turns thoughtful, not snarky...I am incredibly fascinated by the relationship between genetic and cultural evolution, with technology thrown in as a catalyst, an accelerator.

Thanks for the post. It's hard to keep up. I gotta get off the 'net and cook bison. With "natural gas."
posted by kozad at 4:01 PM on March 3, 2008

Wow, what a dumb metaphor. Social networks are like "The eye" because they are both complicated? That's pretty weak right there. Yeah yeah, he talks about how the 'evolution' of both eyes and social networks is unlikely, except that social networks didn't really evolve. (Well, another caveat is that he's talking about 'real world' social networks, not Facebook/MySpace. But Facebook and myspace don't really model real-world social networks all that well. I'm "Connected" to tons of people I've met only once, and my parents are not on there, etc)

I thought it was going to be about how people in social networks behave like cones and rods in the eye, giving eachother feedback, and I was curious how exactly that was going to work out (what does the social network as a whole 'see' and what does it send it's image too?)
posted by delmoi at 4:34 PM on March 3, 2008

I don't know, maybe it's because it's late, maybe it's because I've been around this stuff for over a decade, but I didn't find this piece very revelatory. It's also not very well written. No pun intended, but I suspect there's less here than meets the eye.
posted by athenian at 4:37 PM on March 3, 2008

Christakis, like a group of other scholars researching social science questions, uses Facebook to gather data about how people form social relationships.

And is being reported on by the hard-hitting and in-depth Style section of the NYT.
posted by rooftop secrets at 4:39 PM on March 3, 2008

dumb metaphor
posted by Saddo at 11:24 AM on March 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

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