What I read – 2010-11-11

  • The Strength of Weak Ties: A Network Theory Revisited « Sociological Theory – Mark S. Granovetter reviews research related to his original paper The Strength of Weak Ties. He clarifies that while almost all "local bridges" are weak ties, not all weak ties are bridges, and referring to the work of Rose Coser assumes that bridging weak ties are "far more likely than other weak ties to connect individuals who are significantly different from one another" and "lead to complex role sets." Granovetter then sums up research that suggests more educated people rely, and benefit, more on weak ties, arguing that weak ties less educated people rely on are less often bridging ties. Ericksen & Yancey suggest that poor people's reliance on strong ties is "linked both to economic insecurity and a lack of social services". Granovetter assumes that this "has the impact of fragmenting communities of the poor into encapsulated networks with poor connections between these units." Granovetter also argues that diffusion of ideas through weak ties in the end leads to homogenization.
  • The Strength of Weak Ties « American Journal of Sociology – Mark S. Granovetter writes about the implications of the strength of ties between individuals. He describes tie strength as continuous, but distinguishes strong, weak, and absent ties. He finds that "the degree of overlap of two individuals' friendship networks varies directly with the strength of their tie with one another", thus only weak ties can act as "bridges" connecting different dense-knit clusters. Granovetter concludes that people with more weak ties have a broader network to draw information from, while people with only strong ties are confined to their network of close, most likely like-minded friends. He assumes that as a result the latter will be harder to organize in a movement, since word would spread slower, and claims that the macroscopic effect of this argument is that "social systems lacking in weak ties will be fragmented and incoherent", hindering the spread of new ideas.
  • Can Technology End Poverty? « Boston Review – Kentaro Toyama criticizes the "myth of scale" propagated by ICT4D proponents, vehemently arguing against technological determinism. He describes technology as only "a magnifier of human intent and capacity" and states that "its impact is multiplicative, not additive, with regard to social change." Toyama criticizes ICT4D projects focused on disseminating technology, such as OLPC, claiming that they take away money from more important projects, and arguing that technology widens the gap between rich and poor through the three mechanisms of differential access, capacity, and motivation.

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