Category Archives: MACT

Communication Evolution

Tomorrow’s reading provided an interesting parallel between the evolution of social networks then (ancient, in person) and now (today, online). Coren Apicella’s reflections on how the Hadza networks evolve to ensure that cooperation and altruism are survival traits are fascinating. Apicella’s description of the homophily that draws altruists to group together to provide a “net benefits for the sharers” without the deadweight of those who are more self-oriented.

Shirky’s article also touches on the threat of members who can threaten the survival of the group, though in this case, these individuals are not specifically the selfish. Shirky notes however a number of ways in which online groups have evolved to address this threat. Technology is not ultimately the solution to member behavior issues; rather, just as with the Hadza, it is the role of “society” to modify itself through membership barriers and behavioural norms that can be enforced. Shirky provides the examples of Slashdot and a number of other social media sites who have evolved means of ensuring the survival of the group, often at the expense of the individual.

We tend to consider the communications issues that arise with social media to be unique; however, this parallel and COMM 505 would suggest that part of human society is adapting itself to ever-changing communications technologies.


Filed under COMM 506, group membership, MACT, social networks

Modeling Networks

Latour’s keynote on Actor Network Theory as well as his introduction to Reassembling the Social provide an interesting frame through which to read Chapter 4 of Kadushin’s Understanding Social Networks. Kadushin (2011) points out in Chapter 4 that network statistics can only handle independent units of analysis. To take advantage of statistical analysis, then, means “cutting up large networks into separate non-overlapping pieces for analysis.” In light of Latour’s comments, this cutting process is no longer the simple process of making networks manageable for analysis, it is cutting them off from their environmental context. If networks are, as Latour suggests, fully dependent on the actors within it, this modular view skews the nature of the network being studied and of the individuals who make up part of that network. In talking about networks, Latour (2005) defines social as ‘a trail of associations between heterogeneous elements” (p. 5) and suggests the danger of mistaking the associations for the objects between which the associations lie. The modular view “interrupt[s] the movement of associations”  and “confuse what they should explain”(p.8).

One other concept I found interesting was etic groups. Kadushin describes these groups as being “identified by observers” not members, and without “firmly established boundaries.” In these groups membership, to a certain extent, is based on perception. The example that came to mind was race, since race is so frequently involved in Kadushin’s examples. Regardless of how an individual identifies him/herself, an individual is likely to be considered and treated as part of the race with which others associate his/her skin colour. In this context, perception defines the network reality of the individual.

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Filed under Actor Network Theory, COMM 506, etic groups, Kadushin, Latour, MACT, social networks