We can best connect to other social worlds through the social shortcuts of weak ties, by which we engage folks that
are not necessarily that close to us initially--e.g. Uncle Albert, or an old high school friend, or
someone we know at work, at the dry cleaners, or where we have our car repaired. These bridge persons may not be that
emotionally close to the people we hope to reach on the other end of the
connection, either--but the value of bridging is that the relationship may be just strong
enough, as a social tie, to spread an idea or enable a new connection
Blogs have a special social relevance because they allow their bloggers
create and maintain a network of weak social ties. The network of
weak ties that a blogger can sustain is open to all comers, and is
potentially vast and highly diverse (as diverse as the web
itself--which of couse is not diverse enough, but is more diverse than,
say, academic journals). Blogs are weak tie machines!
Anyone (you!) can read my
blog. If my ideas seem relevant to you, you can take them and
plant them within your local, strong-bonded social network. Of
course, if you are a blogger, you can also spread them across your own
blog-based weak ties--and thus diffuse the ideas even farther.
Blogging helps us expand and maintain a large number of loose
ties. And loose ties, to go back to Granovetter's point,
are the vital links for social progress. Social progress may be
(oversimply, of course) defined as the spread of good ideas across
society, and the combination and recombination of people into new
groups that can take collective action.
Finally, a good thing about weak social ties is that it appears to be
difficult to exert conventional social pressure across such ties.
It is hard to "pressure" someone into agreeing with an idea or an
action. Loose ties are voluntary. Thus ideas and actions
that grow across networks of weak ties can perhaps be presumed to be
better vetted by each person--based on merit rather than
coercion. Perhaps this process of individual discernment helps
filter out bad ideas seeking to spread across the network of loose
ties. Perhaps this filtering in turn contributes to collective wisdom
being developed across the loose-tie long distance network as a whole,
and thus also within the strong-tie local communities at the edges.
From what I've seen of the blogosphere so far, I think it must however be noted that while blogs support the creation and maintenance of weak ties, they do not compel it.
I think a fair proportion of bloggers quickly end up with mostly strong
ties to a core cluster and thus spend most of their time in a mostly
self-absorbed collective or (in the worst case) an echo chamber,
contributing little to the spread of ideas across communities. But that
doesn't do anything to diminish the ability of the weak-tie bloggers to
Those people who wish to cultivate weak ties can do it more easily and
cheaply than before weblogs were around, and I think that's a
significant development in the evolution of knowledge sharing (read my thesis if you really want the full-blown exposé!).
Shared tacit knowledge formed in a community through conversation and dialog
is a very valuable corporate resource, well-protected from competitors,
impossible to copy and requires special conditions to replicate elsewhere.
Very well said. I'd never thought about dialog (dialogue?) in this way, but it makes plenty of sense.
Actually, I'd argue that dialog can also be seen as a personal
resource. The individual has a monopoly over all those pieces of shared
context he has with the people he has dialogued with, inside and
outside his organization.
Clément is keeping tabs on Québécois sites with RSS feeds that relate to education, and Mario (who's at the Autrans gathering in France right now, le chanceux) has contributed a few additions in his comments. Add your own!