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
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.”
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.