Are you in the same network?

August 9, 2007 at 9:14 pm Leave a comment

A recent article in NY Times caught my eye: Mobile phone networks are changing people’s social relations by their “talk-free-in-the-same-network” gimmick. When people switch network, they have to take their friends’ network into consideration and they may well lose their friends if they switch to the wrong one.

This is a perfect example of technology interfering human relations. Or more specifically, the physical (phone) network influences the social network. This sounds very much like McLuhan’s technological determinism, but the truth is, any technology has certain affordances and constraints. Harold Innis call this “the bias of communications”. Larry Lessig says “code is law”. And I say that human behavior is conditioned by technological parameters.

Now the smart mobs are clustered within certain sub-networks. Being in different networks make people more distant. Several interesting observations can be made:

  1. the law of homophily would predict the same thing, but its explanatory power seems to be limited. We are in the same network….what does that say about us being alike? I’d say not that much!
  2. friends become more distant when they switch to different networks…but do acquitances become closer when they switch to the same network? This is still an open question.
  3. From a technology adoption perspective, this illustrates the network effect of adoption. People think about their friends before deciding which network to join and the more your friends are with network A, the more like you will choose – and get stuck with network A. If I am one of the marketing people of those networks, I’d add some new customer referral bonu, too.
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Entry filed under: mobile communication, smart mob, social network.

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