January 05, 2004
Small-World Politics

Some interesting thinking going on today around the idea of “weak ties”.

Jim Moore (who’s working for the Dean campaign now) kicked it off with a note discussing a theoretical framework for why blogs matter:

Blogs have a special social relevance because they allow their bloggers to create and maintain a network of weak social ties. The network of weak ties that a blogger can sustain is open to all comers, and is potentially vast and highly diverse (as diverse as the web itself—which of couse is not diverse enough, but is more diverse than, say, academic journals). Blogs are weak tie machines! Anyone (you!) can read my blog.

If my ideas seem relevant to you, you can take them and plant them within your local, strong-bonded social network. Of course, if you are a blogger, you can also spread them across your own blog-based weak ties—and thus diffuse the ideas even farther.

Blogging helps us expand and maintain a large number of loose ties. And loose ties, to go back to Granovetter’s point, are the vital links for social progress. Social progress may be (oversimply, of course) defined as the spread of good ideas across society, and the combination and recombination of people into new groups that can take collective action.

John Robb follows up Moore with some interesting observations on how the Dean campaign is leveraging these “small-world phenomena”:

  • Part 1: “Of course, the Dean campaign isn’t the only organization using the power of Internet enabled small-world networks. Groups across the world are doing the same, including terrorists.”
  • Part 2: “The difficulty in building a political network like Dean is that it is extremely difficult to manufacture small-world dynamics. The weak links derived from weblogs and other forms of social technology are made via intentional actions by the network’s participants. They can’t be forced or planned. They also are unlikely to form without help. “
Posted by Jason Lefkowitz at January 05, 2004
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