It was interesting to observe the role that Twitter played in class and how it offered another channel to contribute in class and develop social capital. The instances where I felt I gained the most credibility/ recognition in class were related to tweets I made about articles and information from outside of class. For this information, I pulled from other networks and relied on the strength of weak ties. Benkler (2006) notes that “weak ties … allow… people to transmit information across social networks about available opportunities and resources” (p. 368). Similarly, Gladwell (2010) suggests that weak ties are “our greatest source of new ideas and information.” Our class has read all the same articles, so I was able to add value by going outside that shared experience. The Twitter feeds had quite a few people bringing in ideas from outside of class and outside of our class network. I did a quick review of the 73 tweets on the #COMM506 stream last Tuesday and Wednesday: 31 tweets echoed information discussed in class, 4 tweets brought in external links that directly related to class material, 21 were comments of appreciation for contributors, 10 related to general class themes rather than the specific content of the class, and only 7 or so were tangents or commentary that related very indirectly to class. The experience of tweeting during class and this quick analysis suggests that Twitter augmented the class rather than simply serving as a distraction.
After having watched the clip of “Enemy of the State” in class last week, I took a break over the weekend to watch the whole film. It was as enjoyable as I remembered, if a little more scary this time given last week’s discussions about online security (or the lack thereof).
I saw an interesting parallel between Will Smith’s character and Julian Assange in terms of how they were portrayed as pariah’s by the media. Assange’s comments about journalists needing to be or have frequent access to an electronic surveillance expert in order to protect their sources reflected how necessary Gene Hackman’s character was to Will Smith’s continued existence. Nevertheless, Assange comes across as a lot less black and white in terms of the good guy – bad guy spectrum. His reflections on how the U.S. Government is trying to reinterpret the Espionage Act were disturbing, but they were undermined by the fact that Assange does tend to come across as arrogant and self-oriented in media coverage, including the Rolling Stone interview.
Both Assange and the film insist that people need to be active in protecting their civil liberties. Assange argued that “You can either be informed and your own rulers, or you can be ignorant and have someone else who is not ignorant, rule over you,” which is something similar to what Chris Parsons told us last week. In our other reading, Kidd reflects on the need for audiences to be more engaged with and less passive about the news they receive. She notes “most people still do not have the time to produce their own stories, nor to read Indymedia with the critical eye and self-motivated searching that the site demands.” Articles on Assange are interesting to read, because one is never sure exactly how much salt to read them with.
The discussion around the false differentiation that has been made between online and offline crime and the need to be as savvy and careful online and off really hit home. John Brownlee’s reflections on the app Girls Around Me emphasizes that the web can make us vulnerable, but only if we let it by not being careful with our information just as we would be offline.
For me, the Facebook “Relationship Status” is a tiny case in point.
I can see the value of providing this information. I have friends that are a couple because he asked her out when her relationship status changed to single, which he might not otherwise have known. But it is necessary to be discriminating about providing it – just like you would be offline. Why? … I have also had a friend who announced she was in a relationship on Facebook before the person she was in a relationship with was of the same mind. Awkward. A rookie mistake on or offline, but online makes the mistake a little more public.
Keith Hampton’s article “Comparing bonding and bridging ties for democratic engagement: Everyday use of communication technologies within social networks for civic and civil behaviours,” builds on many of the sociological networking concepts that Kadushin has introduced in his earlier chapters. Hampton is particularly interested with democratic engagement within which he includes both political participation and community involvement. Previous research has posited that the structure of social networks is able to predict democratic engagement. Hampton seeks to explore the role of bonding or bridging ties on democratic engagement as well as how information and communications technologies influence this engagement.
Through a telephone interview asking people about their civic involvement, their networks, and their technology, Hampton posits that the following positive relationships exist:
- size and heterogeneity of core networks and democratic engagement
- core network size and some civic & civil behaviours (community group involvement, listening to a neighbour’s problems & helping them with chores)
- core network heterogeneity and likelihood of participating in a sports league & listening to a neighbour’s problems
- more face-to-face interactions with core network and likelihood of helping neighbours with chores and helping to care for a member of their family
- more mail and likelihood of caring for a member of a neighbour’s family and lending them money
- texting and likelihood for participating in a sports league
- instant messaging and likelihood of helping a neighbour with chores and loan money.
- use of social networking services and likelihood of belonging to a community organization
Based on his data, Hampton suggests that civic engagement is more correlated with bridging ties and network diversity than bonding ties.
One of the challenges that I had with this paper was Hampton’s focus on the “overall network” in the paper when his results are largely associated with the core network. Moreover, he establishes a binary between weak (core) and strong ties while at the same time establishing a binary between bonding and bridging ties. Although Hampton differentiates between bridging and weak ties, weak and bonding ties end up being conflated. What results from Hampton’s use of these binaries is the expectation that the results will not focus on the core to the extent that they do.
- Were you surprised by any of the results?
- Georg Simmel proposed that individualism grew out of the change from singular community tie to the multiple (cross-cut) ties provided by urban life, social media, etc? Are we increasingly individualistic, because our networks are so much more fragmented now?
- Can you think of any examples where network diversity has been discouraged to try to encourage a more homophilic, tighter-knit group?
- What do you think of Hampton’s speculation that political disagreement among core ties may lead to a tradeoff between political participation and civic behaviours?