It's all about perspective

Posts tagged ‘Society’

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…


As a burgeoning sociologist, my colleagues and classmates are constantly talking about the differences that: separate us, bind us, keep us downtrodden, keep us uplifted, or just generally keep us. We have had a very limited opportunity to study these things with two tragedies: Hurricane Katrina and the California fires.

Reading through news stories, blog posts, and listening to news programs, it lifts my heart to know that the discussion is not focusing on one aspect of the problem. No one seems to be focusing purely on race, or class, or economic status, or education. It seems that the talks are on all of those subjects and several not listed. Unfortunately I am seeing a deadlock in the discussions.

It seems that since we, as a society, are unable to put one single perfect all encompassing label on the problem, we are leaving it, frustrated that the problem is too hard and multi-faceted to tackle. What is happening to the discussion? There are many of us out there who are blaming it on one single thing, yet these people and their arguments are quickly becoming passé to the grand majority of the country when confronted by other arguments who say it is something completely different.

This may seem like a very clear “duh” moment, but it has to be said. There is no single perfect label to place upon this mess that Katrina and the fires of California have opened our eyes to. The problem is systemic; meaning that it has integrated itself into every aspect of our lives, is perpetuated from several different angles of society, and has as many outcomes as it has reasons. (more…)

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