Emergent social networks

Last Wednesday Valdis Krebs gave a guest lecture at the CCK08 elluminate meeting. Krebs talked about  emergent networks and social network analysis. I wasn’t able to actually attend the session but watched the recording and looked at the slides. As i’m a plain newbie to this subject of social network analysis i also used Wellman’s presentation on networks for newbies.

Krebs explained social network analysis as follows:

“Social Network Analysis [SNA] is a mathematical and visual analysis of relationships / flows / influence between people, groups, organizations, computers or other information/knowledge
processing entities.”

I found it really interesting to see how Krebs looks at organizational structures using social network analysis. He showed us a traditional organizational hierarchy diagram. Then he flattened the picture out and showed the hierarchy as a network diagram. You could see that this traditional organization consists of small (business) units  and that there are no connections between them other then via the top (management). Krebs stresses that in the white spaces between the units happens the work that’s most valuable to the organization. This is just like we see with innovation processes that occur the post at the periphery of and between communities or networks of practice. But then Krebs showed us the same picture that shows lines between the diverse nodes, those are the actual connections that happen during work. We now see that there actually are connections between the diverse units. Krebs has visualized the prescribed organization vs the actual organization.

Online social networks

Krebs also talked about online social networks, see also this article on his website. Krebs states that most online communities consists of three social rings: “a densely connected core in the center, loosely connected fragments in the second ring, and an outer ring of disconnected nodes, commonly known as lurkers.”

Online Community

The image above is a visualization of an existing online network, the three social rings are clearly visible. In the chatbox of the presentation, many people instantly talked about the similarities with the CCK08 community. People in the core of the community are actively participating and sharing their views on connectivism, people in the second ring are not that actively connected but do follow the course and perhaps connect with a small group of people. People at the periphery probably just read the daily and maybe follow some blogs or the disccusion at the moodle board (Stephen also wrote about this at the cck08 blog).

Unfortunately Krebs didn’t hook into that immediately, but at the Q&A George asked him about how to deal with the people in the outside ring. Should we pull them in, get them more active? Krebs told us that there is “no requirement to bring those in but its nice to know who they are and where they are. You can be a very pasive participant in one environment and a very active one in another, so its not just by personality. Its what you consider is important and what u consider urself skilled at.”

I think it’s important to consider how the networks in which you participate are build up and being aware of your position in those. I consider myself to act in the cck08 network somewhere on the border between the green and the red nodes. As i connect with more people and keep participating i expect to move further to the core. One question that arises me here is that this whole network was almost completly new to me. Is it so that those who initialy had more connections are moving quicker or perhaps starting at the core? In that way networks like this one really are emergent.

9 Responses to “Emergent social networks”

  1. 1 Mike Bogle

    Hi Joost,

    Thanks for this post. I was unable to attend Krebs presentation and have been struggling to get back through everything I missed this week – so you’re thoughts here are valuable insight into what was covered.

    As far as my place in the visualisation for CCK08 goes, I had really wanted to be in the red zone and take a highly active approach to interacting in the course, but unfortunately I haven’t managed to keep up with things as much as I’d hoped (hopefully this will change).

    That said though I’ve made some valuable connections with people during this time – you in particular for example – and continue to benefit from the interaction even though the subject matter will at times diverge from the main discussions taking place on the weekly topics for CCK08. Just take our discussions on SecondLife and virtual worlds for example, or Digital Natives and your thesis.

    Personally I’d rather have fewer connections, but have them be very dynamic and interactive/discursive, than have more connections that are less interactive. Perhaps this is an example of why I prefer blog to forums – the ability to consider and discuss things more slowly. Then again I would suspect we have more connections than we realise. The connections we choose to focus on are a different matter.

    By the way, thanks very much for passing along your thesis. I read through it yesterday and found it fascinating. I’m likely to write a post on my reflections and thoughts shortly (I hope), because I think you cover some important territory that I’d like to pursuit further.



  2. 2 liz.renshaw


    Strange to see how our networks are forming. Mike and I actually live in the same area and made contact at the start of the course and ow I seem to be following him around reinterating his comments to some extent. Im sure theres a name for this in network analysis.

    Thanks for the Valdis Krebs links which I have followed up. He has a concept called network weavers and also network guardians

    ALso thanks for your thesis which i am unbelievably excited to get to read. i work collaboratively with youth in a formal educational institution and we are really noticing the net generation needing different tools and approaches to what the organisation permits us to access. What net gen whats to use a boring wikispace that is controlled by the organisation ? so Im hoping you paper will give me some ammunition for change.

  3. 3 Joost Robben

    @ liz, welcome and great to connect. Its indeed interesting to see how our networks are emerging throughout the course. Also interesting to see that many new connections i’ve made recently are related to cck08. its like it gives me a reason to connect and a topic to talk about.
    I hope you find the thesis usefull, please let me know if you have any questions. I’m curious about your experiences with the youngsters.

    @mike, why would you rather find yourself more in the core of the community? As long as your current connections/ network offer you enough possibilities for your reflections, isnt such an environment rich enough? I believe that if we continue to find the course (or should i say network) engaging, we will be making more connections and move more towards the core.

    I’m looking forward to your reflections on my thesis. Im currently in the process of rewriting the discussion part in order to get it published in a journal. I’m looking to strengthen my arguments and offer more guidelines for practice and further research.

    Gr. Joost

  4. 4 Wayne Batchelder

    Joost, thanks for giving me access to information I had not had the time to listen to. I appreciate your summary and find similar responses as Mike and Liz. I got caught up in giving finals and turning in grades last week and meetings this week between quarters and lost touch with the course. I related to the similarity of social networks as communities of practice and also find myself on the periphery as I have not had the time to keep up. Somehow I keep telling myself this will all be online, but I know the connections with folks like you is what it really about.

    I am primarily interested in applied learning environments as I work with connectivist pedagogy in my classes at a small design college. I am getting new data about the theories but facilitating learners is my active passion. I scanned your thesis Joost, and respect the work you have done there. I am working on a dissertation relating social networking with skill development towards self-directed learning and your net gen study adds to my thinking, so thanks for your work and for sharing it. I outline a course that I teach introducing social networking/learning how to learn to beginning students in our interactive media design program, and would appreciate more discussion about your development of learning environments. This is the exciting part of the whole connectivism process to me.

    Thanks to each of you for getting me caught up!.

  5. 5 Joost Robben

    @Wayne, thanks for your response on my post. Its good to know that its been helpful to you. Moreover, by leaving a response a new connection as been made i really appreciate that. Good to know that you are also involved in research on the ed-tech field. My main job is in consulting, but im also trying to keep up with some research activities as i find that it offers a good base for consulting. Its good to have a network (emerging…) with fellow researchers.

  6. 6 Mike Bogle

    Hi Joost,

    I guess my desire to be more at the centre of the network is because I’m feeling as though I’m missing much of the discussion that’s taking place on the matter.

    I’m writing this though I’m brought to wonder whether that is the case or not. After all, there are 2,000 people enrolled in the course, and who knows how many following its activities and posting on the ideas, but not enrolled.

    Perhaps “being where the action is” is a relative statement. With hierarchical structures there is a clear source for the information, but with networks there is no one “source”. It’s anywhere and everywhere. So perhaps my assumptions had been incorrect; and the significance of a network is as much about how much you participate, as being at its core.

    So when you said “As long as your current connections/ network offer you enough possibilities for your reflections, isnt such an environment rich enough?” I think you’re spot on.

    On another note, I replied to the comment you left about my post on my position on connectivism, but I must admit I wasn’t sure if I interpreted your point properly. If I got your thoughts wrong please correct me :) I’m looking forward to expanding the discussion to more holistic perspectives as well, so I’ll definitely watch this space for your continuing thoughts on everything!





  7. 7 Mike Bogle

    Oh yes, one more thing. I hope you didn’t mind me quoting your master’s thesis in my Short Paper (and I hope I didn’t misrepresent anything). I thought it was quite relevant for the train of thought I was on and that it would provide some valuable real world examples that could add to the discussion.



  8. 8 Joost Robben

    @mike, no worries :) I think its fantastic how this conversation is emerging. no problem at all with you quoting me. good or no good, thats the point in research: adding to the body of knowledge for others to interpret, use and make new connections with it. By doing this you also help me with my further thinking on the subject, so nothing but thanks there!

  9. 9 Joost Robben

    Due to massive spamming on this post I’ve blocked the possibility to leave a reply here. Please try to contact me (twitter/ e-mail) if you want to leave a serious reply here.

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