Collective actions and collisions on the net.

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More of less Dunbar and childhood on the facebook

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Dunbar’s number is a theoretical cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships and minding businesses of other familiar people (in the neocortex region of the brain). Discovered by anthropologist Robin Dunbar, the number is commonly cited approximately 150. So, the number is the estimation how many people can know each other well at the same time.

After social media services on the net, this number is considered much higher than 150, like amount of friends in facebook or contacts in Jaiku. On the other hands, there are estimations that the core network of human beign is much less than 150. The discussion is starting to reach out of hands.

First, Dunbar made his unique observation with ape and human hunter-gatherer societies, also for example among regilious Hutterites and the military. These are all tight cohesive communities with physical presence and in many cases, they have some outer or inner restrictions to have more or mixed population. This means that you do not have much choice who do you will meet and actually you are ‘forced’ to mind common i.e. collective businesses and the people related to them.

Secondly, if your descendants somehow happen to born in facebook, its is presumable that they will have much more deep reationships than just 150 because they’ve spent their whole life there and have had time to meet much more people and much more efficiently than in hunter-gatherer societies.

Thirdly, on the net, you spend much less time in one network service and you can communicate between of them for example with Feedworld and micro channels without any physical restrictions to reach or even no need to log into the services.

So, more logical would be to count the overall number of contacts in all social networks. For example I have 247 contacts and channel memberships in Jaiku, 332 ‘friends’ in facebook, 150 followers in Twitter and 65 ‘friends’ in Sometu Ning network. There are other networks also, like many of us have.

But by stetson estimation, there might be some 30 procent contact overlapping with different services i.e. I have relationships with same peoples reagardless of the service. By stetson method more and without any actual calculating, I suppose I have 20 – 40 persons I deeply chat, irc, sms, skype, email etc in daily or weekly basis.

As Howard Rheingold wrote recently, Peter Marsden has thought that most humans maintain a much smaller core network than 150.

That’s make much sense to me on the age of the net. Basically it is possible to have much more relationship on the net. But, it is stil time-consuming and laborius work to manage them in personal level, like Clay Shirky has presented in Here Comes Everybody.

At the moment I’m making sna analysis of Sometu Ning network with 841 members. In my preliminary findings, there are some 10-20 core people who make the core network. This means, that quite a many persons, who have 10-20 contacts, have make mostly their contants just to these core people. More about the analysis of Sometu during the spring.

Written by kariahintikka

March 7, 2009 at 11:53 am