Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Big Love

This is Alice Robison. She teaches at M.I.T.

I have never met her, although we've apparently given talks at some of the same conferences.

However, when it comes to defining kinship in a given online community, it would seem that Alice is my closest genetic match in the Facebook family tree. Right now, I share over a third of my digital social DNA with Alice, because we have 22 Facebook friends in common. That's far more online mutual friends than I share with anyone else -- far more than those on Facebook with whom I have worked, blogged, talked, taught, commuted, or sat alongside in church, college, or graduate school.

Perhaps it proves yet again Mark Granovetter's point about "The Strength of Weak Ties." On paper, Alice and I actually have a lot in common in our professional lives: similar backgrounds in running college writing programs, teaching with technology, and studying the practices and ideologies associated with videogame design. Or maybe it demonstrates what Albert-László Barabási argues in Linked, that particular individuals function as social hubs by virtue of the large number of weak social ties that they are able to maintain. She's also joined a number of Facebook groups, including my personal favorite Researchers Researching Researchers, which mocks the endlessly recursive character of the digital participant observer. In any case, it seems that if I'd need a virtual organ transplant, Alice is the one to whom I should go.

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