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TECH 621 - Reading Reflection - Week 7

And so it begins again. Lets get to talking about what I read in relation to social capital

The Strength of Weak Ties: A Network Theory Revisited

The relationships you have can be classified based on your interaction. People we know very well, our close friends or family, are said to be strong ties. Conversely, acquaintances of ours are said to be weak ties. This paper argues weak ties are just as important as strong ties.

The main argument of this paper, which it argues against, “asserts that our acquaintances (weak ties) are less likely to be socially involved with one another than are our close friends (strong ties).” The author argues weak ties are vital for an individuals integration into modern society. They offer various examples, but one stood out to me. They contend weak ties can connect a groups of tightly knit individuals. To explain a little further, two people are acquaintances, yet they have their own group of close friends. These two people now have the opportunity to connect with people from the other group, due to this acquaintance, or weak tie.

This makes sense to me, as I can relate it to my life while I am looking for a job after college. Speaking of job hunting, this paper mentioned it also. Researchers found “less-well-educated respondents were most likely to use strong ties for jobs.” This statement makes me laugh, not only because of how true it is, but because of how unfair and disappointing it is. They basically say, people who do less will get the same as people who do more just because they “know” people. This world reflects around the principle, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Very unfortunate.

The Benefits of Facebook “Friends:” Social Capital and College Students’ Use of Online Social Network Sites

Can being a Facebook user help your social capital? Well first I should explain what social capital is. Social capital are resources accumulated through relationships among people. This can be in the form of information, personal relationships, the capacity to organize group, and much more.

This paper introduces the idea of bridging and bonding social capital. The author states bonding social capital occurs between individuals strong ties, while bridging social capital is the exact opposite; weak ties. Bridging social capital can be defined as the building of connections between groups. Bridging social capital is more fragile than bonding social capital, but it is also more likely to foster social inclusion.

The goal of this study was to see if Facebook plays any role in bridging social capital. The authors found, after conducting a study at MSU, Facebook is implicated in students efforts to develop and maintain the bridging of social capital at college. They don’t know exactly how, but they found it is definitely involved. They also found a positive relationship between certain kinds of Facebook use and maintenance and creation of social capital.

This paper is good and builds off the previous paper in the form of weak ties, and how they are directly related to social bridging, which some contend is better than social bonding. Good paper overall.

The Influence of Cultural Differences on the Use of Social Network Services and the Formation of Social Capital

A question that has been asked often when it comes to cultures and social media is, “Do believed cultural differences profoundly impact how people use social networking services (SNS)?” The main goal of this study was to clarify the relationship between cultural differences and motivation of SNS uses and between motivation of SNS use and social capital.

I liked how they compared the different functions of SNS. They compared 3 different theories, yet it all amounts to the same basic functions after studying each theory closely.

To measure what they were looking for they gave a survey in Korea, China, and the USA. After compiling the data obtained from these surveys (questions at right) they found Korea has a high sense of individualism, and China, which reports high levels of masculinity, only have a moderate sense of individualism. Kind of weird right?

The researchers also found Korea and China have users who find experts for advice on decisions as well as emotional situations. This relates closely with social capital, whereas the USA related to bridging social capital better.

Overall, the researchers found it is hard to explain the relationship between cultural differences and motivation of SNS uses. They also found social capital bonding is less influential than bridging social capital, which is verified from the past two articles reviewed as well.

The Strength of Weak Ties

Well this seems to be the paper that preceded the first paper reviewed for this reflection. I can see how the other paper built off this one, yet there are some things worth pointing out. First, the author states the personal experiences of individuals are closely bound up with larger-scale aspects of social structure. So you fit into the world somewhere. You are the smaller aspect and the world is the large structure you fit into.

Next, they brought up the topic of strong and weak ties. Go figure. Weak ties are seen as indispensable to individuals opportunities and integration into the community. VERY IMPORTANT, even more so than strong ties. Strong ties, the author states, leads to overall fragmentation, which I would assume is bad.

It’s different to hear people categorize weak ties are better than strong ties. I initially though strong ties would be better because you actually know the person well. It makes sense because with strong ties, you will have the people you know well and won’t want to leave your comfort zone. The opposite is true with weak ties, you barely know them and you want to get out there.

Lastly, the author brings up the point of what are we going to do when analyzing a tie when it is categorized not as weak or strong (based off strength), but as negative, positive, etc. I really don’t know, but it is something interesting to think about.

Network Analysis in the Social Sciences

This article seems to provide a general overview of the social sciences in regards to networks. “For social scientists, the default expectation has been that different networks (and nodes within them) will have varying network properties and that these variations account for differences in outcomes for the networks (or nodes).” Learn more about Network Analysis.

Social sciences seem like a whole different story. There are so many things to study, where do you start? Well social scientists put more emphasis on the individual node. They do this because the outcomes they observe are driven by the fact that traditional social science theories focus largely on the individual. They have to show that network theory can explain the same outcomes that have been observed in tradition social sciences.

Some social scientists argue observation is a lot better than asking people about their experiences. I would tend to agree, but with some kinds of research direct observation can be really hard, so asking would be the only way to gather data.

They finally conclude by saying social and physical sciences are at different points “along the (related) continua of universalism to particularism, and simplicity to complexity.”

Why We Twitter: Understanding Microblogging Usage and Communities

I never thought I’d see the day when something was assigned to for me to read and I have already read it. This paper is currently in my literature review for my thesis, so lets explore it a little more.

This paper aims to observe how microblogging is used (microblogging phenomenon). They observer the topical and geographical information associated with Twitter. Before going on, I would like to point out that Twitter is very location specific, as is almost every technology.

After conducting their study, the researchers found users use Twitter for various reasons, or Twitter users have certian intentions when using Twitter.

  1. Daily Chatter
  2. Conversations
  3. Sharing information/URLs
  4. Reporting News
  5. Friends
  6. Information Seeker

All of these intentions seem real. Recently, Steve Jobs passed away, RIP you have done so much. I found out about the news two minutes after it happened via Twitter. I also use Twitter to obtain information. People post copious amounts of information in the public domain and it is easy to access. Depending on who you get the information from, it could be invaluable or just straight crap.

This paper found individuals have different motivations and utilities used when using microblogging platforms. I’m glad we had to read this paper as it demonstrates target audiences for future studies. Very good paper and I would read it again, maybe haha.


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