Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Networks of the world

As a way of describing social interaction, the metaphor of a network is appealing in a number of ways - after all, it suggests connection between points, as well as a sense of fluidity; but it also invites a sort of abstraction of the social which is perhaps best captured in the diagrams that are a common characteristic of network analysis. It is also a peculiarly 20th century metaphor, one that readily associates with the network, itself synonymous with the online world of digital connection. The concept of a social network reduces the human social actor to a point, not even a point of view, but a point that connects in various ways to other points and in this way it speaks to the patterning and flow of communication and interaction by drawing attention to relationships, social groupings, friendship, intra- and inter-group behaviour as they are enacted in and across different geographical locations and over time. It has become quite common to use the term 'social network' to describe online social networking, and to assume that they are the same thing. Of course, they co-exist and overlap but I think its important to make a distinction, and that's what I've been writing about recently. In this post I commented on the mistaken idea that Facebook was connecting the world, but Vincenzo Cosenza's world map of SNSs quickly illustrates its broad appeal as well as its limitations in the global market.

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