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What is really going on beneath the surface? What is the nature of the bifurcation that is unfolding? That's what interests me.

Social Networksd - More by Ross Mayfield

Social Capital of Blogspace

Perhaps we are in the Network Age [Ming], following modernism and post-modernism.  After obsessing about construction, then deconstruction, we now value the links between deconstructed bits.  When those links are between people, they can be valued as social capital.

Robert Putnam, in Bowling Alone, popularlized the role of social capital.  Francis Fukayama, in Trust, principally discusses the correlation between social capital and the prosperity of nations.  He defines social capital as the ease in which people in a culture can form new associations.

Network Layer Unit Size Distribution of Links Social Capital Weblog Mode 
Political Network 1000s Power Law/Scale-free Sarnoff's Law (N) Publishing
Social Network 150 Random/Bell Curve Metcalfe's Law (N2) Communication
Creative Network 12 Even/Flat Reed's Law (2n) Collaboration

As previously described in the Ecosystem of Networks, people use weblogs in different modes: Publishing, Communication and Collaboration.  By dramatically lowering the cost for these modes on the public internet -- they are rapidly increasing the value of social capital.  Each mode provides different valuation methods:

  • Publishing: Sarnoff's law says the value of a network is proportionate to the number of subscribers.
  • Communication: Metcalfe's law says the value of a network is proportionate to the number of links.
  • Collaboration: Reed's Law says the value of a network is proportionate to the number of groups.

Now Sarnoff + Metcalfe + Reed does not equal a valuation methodology, but centering on the value of different kinds of relationships reveals where investment would provide greater return.  Enhancing communication and ties between collaborative groups enables exponential growth of social capital. 

The above image also recasts the Ecosystem of Networks with the individual as the center, as preferred by many...

From Zack Lynch's forthcoming book:

...Unlike many of his contemporaries, the insightful UC Berkeley sociologist Manuel Castells in his ambitious two thousand page trilogy, The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture [retitled the Rise of the Network Society] provided a comprehensive assessment of the impact of information technologies have on culture and global society at large. Castells’ extensive analysis of how "our societies are increasingly structured around the bipolar opposition of the Net and the Self” will remain an important perspective for some time to come. Here, the “Net” stands for the new organizational formations, social and cultural, based on the pervasive use of networked communication media...

Perhaps we are living in a Network Age, building a Network Society.  Perhaps Emergent Democracy is as significant as a Second Superpower.  But at the least, we are building new relationships-- a connectedness that we should value.

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Last update: 18/04/2003; 2:42:07 PM.