Oh Popularity…

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Oh popularity…the very word makes many revert back to loathsome memories of high school and the cruelty of those with social power as humorously depicted in the film Mean Girls.

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Image courtesy Google Images

As we mature and leave the boxed-in informal network of high school, we realize that popularity is still pervasive in our social networks. Only now it is based more on rewarding positive, rather than cruel sentiments to others and can reach extremely high public visibility. “People enjoy the fruits of rank” says Kadushin (2012, p.84) and will risk not having positive sentiments returned by others in the quest for a higher social rank. With Twitter, in order to gain a high following, this risk must be accepted as dues are paid to honour those not just in primary networks but new networks at higher rankings. It is easy to become wrapped up in personal feelings of doubt and concern when putting your opinions out to a public that may not seem so receptive. However with tenacity and an understanding that one-to-one reciprocal relationships can not be maintained with large social networks, this should arm you with the ability to move beyond high school fears of ‘outting’ oneself as someone who wants to be a member of larger social networks.

In the spirit of trying to maintain humour in my blog posts in the midst of an intense spring institute, here is a funny (mildly offensive video) for some techniques for becoming popular. In short, don’t be a slut, don’t be a pussy and smoke! (not too sure about that last one)

How to be Popular

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Layers upon layers of networks … and fabulousness

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Tonights readings focus on the psychological foundations of networks we have and why we maintain them. As an exercise, I provide two scenarios of types networks I have:

As social beings, humans need support from our closest family and friends. Daily calls home to my boyfriend to discuss our days contain no greedy ambitions but foster feelings of love, safety and reaffirm our personal identities and relationship. However even if we were hunter-gatherers in Tanzania, we would still look to others to establish a large networked social circle. Humans are networked individuals and look to establish relations with others for effectance or status (Kadushin, 2012). When I first looked at this masters program, I looked to make connections with the University of Alberta and my employer to gain membership and support where it did not exist before. These new connections I formed were effectance in play as I moved out of my comfort zone in order to improve and change my current situation. By recognizing that I needed to network outside my dense, cohesive network and fill structural holes that required membership and support, I acted as a broker that was attempting to make connections that did not already exist. When I complete my masters program, I will gain a new rank or status within my entire network. How well I am able to market myself and how broad my reach will be will still lie in my cognitive ability to maintain relations with a wide network of dense and weak ties.

Now for a more fun one…..

I love my boyfriend, I really do. But that polka-dot shirt Andrea complimented me on today? Well he told me I looked like Wilma Flintstone when I first bought it. It was an honest attempt at a compliment but it didn’t go over so well. That is ok though. I understand that he is not the best source for fashion advice and there are many other sources that can satisfy my information seeking. This is why I follow Kim Kardashian on Instagram. As annoying of a celebrity she is, Instagram is a pictures-only social media tool so I can view her fabulous fashion sense everyday, filling the structural hole that clearly existed with my boyfriend’s input. Another reason I seek this information is for status. While I think most shirk at claiming they are doing anything for status, I like Kadushin’s ‘Keeping up with the Jones’s’ explanation of status as it implies that when I am ‘Keeping up with the Kardashians’ *cringe* that I am keeping up with my fashion sense.

There are simply certain solutions in life where you can be a benefactor of information from other sources when not provided in your immediate social circle. The variety of information can truly be endless and if you have accomplished your result successfully, you will feel that you have established the status you deserve!

To Have or Not to Have… that is the question….

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Bruno Latour in a conference address urged the audience to rethink the predominant western principles of identity that are surrounding by defining oneself as a single entity. Descartes famous ‘to be or not to be’ soliloquy, while providing existential reasoning for our very state of being, paints an inward view of oneself that falls short when attempting to understand linkages to others in networks. Latour’s Actor Network Theory (ANT) instead urges individuals to think of identity as something that is not classified by being, but rather by having. Through understanding what we own as individuals, be it family, knowledge, wealth etc… we can understand why we are members of our networks. Ownership of such characteristics makes actors undeniably the cause of networking activities and as such, actors and networks are causal and cannot be attributed to an objective ‘social’ as other network theorists such as Kadushin may imply. In chapter 4 of Kadushin’s (2012) “Understanding Social Networks”, he breaks down core and periphery membership patterns to help the reader understand why networks come together or may break apart. By continuing his helicopter metaphor – that networks can be understood better by looking at a traffic jam from a helicopter – he maps out basic principles of how non-overlapping communities of networks are mapped and connected. While Kadushin attempts to explain the makeup of social networks, Latour’s ANT explains WHY networks are formed in the beginning.

Abbate’s (1999) narrative on the social construction of packet-data technology and the necessity for founders to present the technology to government-sponsored programs or in response to political agendas demonstrates that useful technologies may not become ubiquitous or even developed due to social forces. However, the Internet is challenging barriers that power structures have used in the past to prevent technology deployment. Social networks have allowed individuals to find new platforms and place insurmountable pressures on governments, as seen in this year’s Kony 2012 campaign. Kickstarter.com allows individuals to sponsor projects that require funding and encourages the development of technologies such as video games outside of the influence of industry leaders. In 1999, Tim Berners-Lee said the Internet is not done and that he had hopes for large companies of the government to fund research to improve it (Wired). While he more recently said that a more semantic and linked web is upon us in what is next to come with Web 3.0, he still hopes that major players like Google will play a major part in this activity (2009, MacManus). However questions of ownership and accountability of users to organize their contributions that paint the Web 2.0 landscape are still yet to be answered and will continue to be asked. Mutual management between organizational ownership and individual ownership of any technology is a new relationship that users and organizations have with the Internet and one that neither party will want to forfeit nor completely own.

LeahMcYYC’s Blog Banner Image

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The banner image at the top of this blog is a picture of street art graffiti that I took on a recent trip to Montreal. I chose to use this image as the theme of this blog is networks. This image represents the secrecy and exclusivity of many networks. Street artists do not openly identify themselves so only through close trusting relations can members become network members. Graffiti writing in itself as an art form uses symbology and art to portray messages that may only be understood by other network members. The writing also symbolizes to those outside the network that criteria of talent, knowledge, cultural understanding and lots of guts to perform illegal acts are at minimum criteria for network membership. This image is a way to remind me that while some networks seem fluid, all require a certain level of criteria for membership, none of which should be ignored as outside membership means that salience may never be assessed properly.