It's all about perspective

Weak Ties

Ok, so I’m roaming around on the internet doing research for another blog post I’m working on, when I run into the Weak Tie Hypothesis. It argues that, in any social group consisting of persons A, B, C, etc, if A and B are strongly connected and A and C are strongly connected, then B and C are also linked. To extend this further, we could say that B learns of a job opening in a neighboring firm, which he tells to A, who tells to C and gets the job she never would have known about without B. Social groups are in debt to these weak links for keeping the groups up-to-date on things going on outside the group or keeping them connected to other groups.

Network of Social ties

Graphic borrowed from Project Management 2.0

So I have two questions:

  1. Since we can label and differentiate these weak links from strong links, can we then determine their level of influence?
  2. Assuming the answer to the above is “yes,” can we then take that micro-level (individual-level) hypothesis and apply it to macro-level (group-level) research?

This stuff is fascinating. As a symbolic interactionist who is working on the connection between micro and macro level research, a system that can be used to measure not only the influence of individuals on other individuals, but one that could measure the influence of systems on those same individuals would be a great tool.

What if we could accurately measure, by means of these weak ties, a group’s influence on society? Then it wouldn’t be a matter of changing the minds of the people in the group, but changing the minds of their weak ties that would cause their downfall. Since weak ties bring new ideas, keep groups relevant, and sometimes bring in new members, removing access to these weak ties could utterly destroy groups within a very short time. Furthermore, could we measure exactly how many weak ties an idea needs in order to become a movement, or to make a video go viral, or to create social change? Goddamn.

I’m probably lending more to this than should be, but if any of the previous is possible, look out. I need a mathematician. Or I need to take more math classes… Either way I need to get in to grad school…


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