Category Archives: network ties

New working paper: Tying the network together

David Lazer (Northeastern & Harvard University) and I have just posted a new working paper titled “Tying the network together – Evaluating the Impact of an Intervention into the Advice Network of Public Managers“. It’s up on the Social Science Research Network for comments. We are in the process of making some substantial changes to it, but would love to hear your feedback!

Here is the abstract:

Networks are often see as emergent and self managed; and yet much of the research on networks examines how networks affect the effectiveness of systems and individuals. Is it possible to intervene in the configuration of a network to improve how it functions? Here we evaluate the impact of an intervention to change the array of relationships connecting a set of distributed public managers—State Health Officials (SHOs). SHOs were brought together for a one week executive educational program near the beginning of their tenures. This paper evaluates the question as to whether this program had long run effects on the ties among SHOs. Using a combination of survey and interview data, we find that there is a substantial effect on the probability of ties between individuals that attend the program together, relative to individuals who attend the program in different cohorts. Given recent findings that highlight the importance of interpersonal networks in the effectiveness of individual managers, this suggests a potential role for interventions to improve the efficiency of dispersed, public sector manager to manager networks.

Lazer, David and Mergel, Ines A., Tying the Network Together: Evaluating the Impact of an Intervention into the Advice Network of Public Managers (July 8, 2011). Available at SSRN: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1881674

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Academic networking & social media

I recently presented my ideas on why academics should tweet and blog too at a symposium at Syracuse University called “Tenure Track Dream Team”. A little over 140 students who are currently on the job market attended the day – about 8-10 were actively using Twitter and 2-3 tweeted during the conference.

I focused my talk not so much on the technology (“You have to use it!”), instead I decided to think about what kind of networking ties academics need in early stages of their career and what usually drives human interaction. My advice for the students was to get out of their comfort zone: They need diverse network ties, so that they will hear about job opportunities (Granovetter’s research on weak & strong ties); they also need to maintain their local ties for future collaborations, but reach out into their global network, so that people are aware of their work and thereby bridge different parts of their network (Watt’s idea of creating small networks and reach across your local, dense ties).

I suggested to them that social networking services are a way to create, maintain and nurture their academic ties. I am using Twitter to understand who belongs to the network of people writing and talking about my research field. I tap into ongoing conversations and contribute when I have something to say. Twitter is a great resource to test and promote early findings or generally hear about hot and new topics. I also use it to understand how practitioners in my field talk about the issues. I started conversations and consequently was able to invite guest speakers to my classes. Moreover, Twitter is a great tool if you can’t attend a conference – someone will always tweet about what is going on or in which room the best presentations are going on.

In addition, I suggested to the students that blogs are a great way to bridge the 140 letters limitation of Twitter and point people to longer posts and links to publications. I suggested to think about individual blogs or content-area blogs that can be easily maintained by several people who are all working on similar topics. The latter lowers the individual publishing/writing pressure and the workload can easily be divided among several people.

RSS feeds as an integral part of blogs, but also all kind of other frequently updated parts on a website, are a great way for academics to sign up for table of content updates of their favorite journals.

We also had a good conversation about publishing cycles, open commons and publishing rights. Syracuse University has just started an “open commons” for working papers called “SURFACE” that shapes up to be a great vehicle to publish early results.

Here are my slides:

Update: Link to the video with my keynote address titled “Social Media for Prospective Faculty: Why Academics Should Blog and Tweet, Too!

James Fowler on the Colbert Report

James Fowler talks about the strong influence of social networks and how they affect our lives:

<td style='padding:2px 1px 0px 5px;' colspan='2'James Fowler
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Book: Influence of social networks on the adoption of eLearning practices

On a personal note: Just designed the cover of a new publication. My dissertation (from 2005) will be available in a print-on-demand version soon.

An increasing number of public institutions of higher education are realizing that there is a need to integrate innovative technologies into their curricula in order to enable students to access and review academic content anytime and to connect with each other outside of the classroom. Many public institutions of higher education have recognized this need and are in the process of introducing new practices in order to meet changing market conditions. These practices are generally referred to as eLearning practices. Besides the intended outcomes of digital student support and access to teaching content, applying eLearning practices and integrating them into the traditional existing teaching routines challenges an organization in multiple ways. The aim here is to show the factors influencing this adoption decision process. To gain a deeper understanding of the patterns and success factors of the adoption of eLearning practices, a social network perspective was applied to the process through which innovative technologies adopted by faculty members.

Reference:

Mergel, I. (2009): The influence of social networks on the adoption of eLearning practices: Using social network analysis to understand technology diffusion and adoption decision, Lambert Academic Publishing, Cologne, ISBN 978-3-8383-1083-1.

Is online social networking making us sick?

The Institute of Biology, UK, has published a paper called “Well connected: The biological implications of ‘social networking’” (pdf file). In this paper, the author Aric Sigman argues, that the more time people spend online, the less they have direct contacts with other human beings.

Here is the abstract:

One of the most pronounced changes in the daily habits of British citizens is a reduction in the number of minutes per day that they interact with another human being. Recent history has seen people in marked retreat from one another as Britain moves from a culture of greater common experience to a society of more isolated experience. She is in good company, as Americans too step back from one another in unprecedented magnitude.

Get offline to stay healthy…

MC Hammer at HBS explaining Twitter

A new expert on social networking, MC Hammer, spoke at HBS about how he uses Twitter effectively. Instead of letting other people talk about him, he says that Twitter is a way of controlling what people hear – directly from him. The session was taped for a special issue on Twitter for Good Morning America. As Andy McAffee (HBS) says in the Good Morning America piece: Twitter is a low cost very public way to share information online:

(Picture linked from The Crimson)

Update: Here is the video from Good Morning America with the coverage.

Your (online) social network predicts your shopping behavior

Not a very new concept, but it seems that the advertising industry adopts the “Birds of the Feather… buy together” concept now. It’s interesting that very traditional social networking concepts, such as peer pressure, preferential attachment, etc. Studies on who to target to effectively spread rumors in networks have lead the way for effective online marketing – the open question is: how can marketers identify those influential hubs in the network? What if they want to use online social networking services to target specific groups? The number of contacts does not necessarily mean that people are also influential or are perceived as beeing important exchange partners – “harvesting” all potential contacts and randomly “friending” as many people as possible, are not necessarily indicators for successful social influence.

What happy people do… socialize…

I just read in the NYT about a study based on data collected from 45,000 Americans to understand what kind of activities people do who are happy. It turns out: they socialize – instead of watching TV. Not a big surprise, but again something that needed proof.

Connected to this: I had lunch with one of my new colleagues today and we were discussing the impact of social networking services on the creation, maintenance and increase of one’s own social capital. Now, most of the studies done so far seem to focus on the fact that spending time online takes away time from face-to-face interactions.  And spending time online is therefore seen as an “unsocial” activity. Our hypothesis is that interactions online (probably connected with some initial face-to-face contact) have the ability to actually increase our social capital: more informal interactions, higher frequency of interaction, which would otherwise not happen, due to busy schedules, obligations, work, etc.