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Studying the behavior of social networks and scholarship October 19, 2008

Posted by Raul in personal life, random thoughts.
Tags: , , ,

Last week when I met with Robert Ballantyne, I told him that in a way, I had begun to get involved in social media to understand the creation of online social networks. Several people have mentioned that I’m a good networker and that I’m good at bringing people together. Heck, I’ve even introduced bloggers to each other who (in theory) *should* know each other in real life!

I was telling Robert that, in the process of understanding these new public spaces (the Internet) I had actually fallen prey to the phenomenon I was interested in studying. That is, instead of being an analyst of bloggers, blogs and Web 2.0/social media folks, I became one with them.

The fact is, I don’t have any interest in studying these networks in a formal way. Of course, I am puzzled by the online behavior of people. I always will be, but I don’t want to spend time attached to this research topic. There are better people out there (danah boyd, Michael Geist and Fred Stutzman and even friends of mine study this stuff – Karen Quinn Fung, Kate Milberry).

If I had it my way and somebody paid me (and someone else put me up to speed on the literature) I would probably go to the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University. But truth be told, (a) I don’t have the time to get up to speed on the literature, (b) I would probably prefer to be invited to the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies – At Harvard too, and (c) even more related to my field, the Center for International Development or the Belfer Center for International Affairs, also at Harvard University.

Just dreaming out loud, that’s all… đŸ™‚



1. Robert - October 19, 2008

I loved reading about this! I think that the truth is that we are all involved in ‘social media’ whether we want to be or not, or whether we know it or not. For some, participation is fun, and for others it is agony.

Sometime in the 70s I read of the research of Stanley Milgram and the Small World Experiment. (I think I first heard of this in a copy of Omni magazine.) Frankly, it rocked my world. Suddenly, I no longer felt lost in a world of billions of people. I could see how my small network could influence, and be influenced, by the whole community.

My observations are that those who seem very lucky to have opportunities pop up for them are often those who are active and natural networkers. In this context, it makes sense.

Is there a practical application for this knowledge? I think so. In the late 90s I wrote an article for Project Mangers entitled: Energize Your Network The same technique works for job-seeking and general networking.

In recent years online services have made it easy, and often fun, to network. I am hoping this will contribute to making the world a friendlier place.

2. Amar Ashar - October 19, 2008

Hey Raul,

You should definitely think about applying to the Berkman Center (perhaps to be a research associate at Berkman next summer? http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/getinvolved/internships). Sounds like you’d be a terrific candidate, and really interested in what we’re working on.

-Amar, Berkman Center

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