Network structure alone is not everything

A while back I participated in some sort of “six degrees” type research. I forget what I had to do or what I did. I was not really involved, my heart was not in it even though I am very interested in the psyche of social networks. The results are summed up here: An Experimental Study of Search in Global Social Networks — Dodds et al. 301 (5634): 827 — Science:

Our results therefore suggest that if individuals searching for remote targets do not have sufficient incentives to proceed, the small-world hypothesis will not appear to hold (13), but that even a slight increase in incentives can render social searches successful under broad conditions. More generally, the experimental approach adopted here suggests that empirically observed network structure can only be meaningfully interpreted in light of the actions, strategies, and even perceptions of the individuals embedded in the network: Network structure alone is not everything.

I think it is a good result. It simply points to the fogotten Sociometry of J.L. Moreno, proving his point: incentives, motivation, participation are important! Here are Moreno’s criteria for good sociometry, which I have summarised in an article I am writing and which will put on the net soon.

  1. Participants are informed, ready, willing and able to participate.
  2. Participants in the group are “researchers”, and the leader is also a participant.
  3. Participation is done in action. Learning is experiential, it is learning by doing.
  4. There is acknowledgment of the difference between process dynamics and the manifest content. To quote Moreno: “there is a deep discrepancy between the official and the secret behaviour of members”. (1951:39) Moreno advocates that before any “social program” can be proposed, the director has to “take into account the actual constitution of the group.” (ibid)
  5. Rule of adequate motivation: “Every participant should feel about the experiment that it is in his (or her) own cause . . . that it is an opportunity for him (or her) to become an active agent in matters concerning his (or her) life situation.” (ibid)
  6. Rule of “gradual” inclusion of all extraneous criteria. Moreno speaks here of “the slow dialectic process of the sociometric experiment”.

References are to: Moreno, J. L., 1951, Sociometry, Experimental Method and the Science of Society . Beacon House, Beacon, New York. Page 31


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