Blog Archives

Video: Social Networks and Situation in Ukraine

Social networks theory can help us understand and explain the ongoing processes in societies all over the world. In this video I apply network theory to analyze the dynamics of protests in Ukraine, from Euromaidan to situation in Crimea.

This video was created for COMM506 course, which is an integral part of the MACT program (University of Alberta). You can also check my original Prezi here.

Hope you will like my video! Let me know what you think about it in comments below 🙂

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Social Capital and You

I bet you’ve heard the term “social capital” a zillion times. Over the last decade it became another corporate buzzword that is mindlessly used everywhere. “Build your social capital”, “reap social capital benefits”, “invest in social capital” and even “social capital and you” – how often did you see articles or pages with titles like that? For instance, Google finds 124 million results for the query “how to build social capital”.

google-soccap

However, a lot of people do not know what “social capital” is in reality. In popular culture social capital is usually defined in economic terms and implies getting some advantages or benefits via communication. According to Kadushin, the theory of social capital has two underlying assumptions: Read the rest of this entry

Netwar and battle of the story

Looking back at the events in Georgia, Libya, Syria and now Ukraine, you might have noticed that the conflicts there have a new component. They are characterized not only by traditional military warfare, but also by involvement of other different structures in conflict. These structures are decentralized and rely heavily on usage of modern information and communication technologies to reach their goals. The confrontation between these structures happens mostly in cyberspace and is more social by nature. In other words, it goes beyond cyberwar. Scholars call such conflicts netwars.

For instance, Arquilla and Ronfeldt define netwar as “an emerging mode of conflict at societal levels, in which the protagonists use network forms of organization and related doctrines, strategies and technologies attuned to the information age”. The netwar actors are very different, often stateless and geographically dispersed. They are organized in various structures, with little hierarchy, and there may be multiple leaders among them.

The emergence of netwars is a result of the digital information revolution and recent development of information and communication technologies in particular (mobile phones, emails, web sites, etc.). In order to operate efficiently, netwars’ actors need to be constantly connected to different data and communication networks, as well as have possibility to exchange the information quickly.

One of the most important aspects of netwars is a “battle of the story” – a confrontation in information space. Different versions of events are propagated in order to change public opinion and, as a result, make adjustments to government policy. Experts say that one of the greatest “battles of the story” took place during the Russia-Georgia war of 2008. All sides of the conflict manipulated the information, launched cyber attacks and blocked communication channels. This summer I created a prezi about this case:

Georgia-Russia war. An information control story. by Tanya Erofeeva on Prezi

Click the image to open Prezi

Aren’t you impressed by the magnitude of this netwar? For instance, I am. The other thing that I’ve learned is that we shouldn’t believe blindly anything we hear or see both in traditional communication channels and online. In order to understand real state of affairs in modern conflicts, we should get information from different sources first and then analyze it ourselves. Otherwise, we risk becoming pawns in political games and acting as transmitters of faulty and biased information. If you ask me, I do not want to become a netwar actor. What about you?

Network theory and situation in Ukraine

First of all, I think that what is happening at the moment in Ukraine is horrible; in fact, it’s a tragedy not only for Ukrainian and Russian people, but also for the whole world. I still hope that the conflict can and will be solved without violence, in a peaceful manner.
Nevertheless, when I was following the story in the news, I understood that we could actually use the network theory principles to understand the conflict dynamics in southeastern regions of Ukraine.

So, in this post I would like to avoid politics, discussions about who’s right and who’s wrong, as well as calling names, and look at the situation from the positions of social networks scholars instead.  My small research is based on the information available on different Ukrainian and Russian web sites, discussions with friends in Ukraine, as well as on some reports in Western press.

As we know, the whole population of Earth can be described in terms of social networks. This enormous network consists of myriads of different more or less dense clusters connected with each other by strong or weak ties, as well as of structural holes.

The dense clusters are usually formed on the basis of homophily principle (i.e. some common attributes, such as connection, friendship and even language). Propinquity (often geographical) is another characteristic of network clusters. These properties of social networks help to develop a sense of “trust” among their members, as well as generate social support, cohesion and embeddedness, in other words, make people feel themselves  as a part of one group and support group decisions.  Read the rest of this entry

Is a small world getting even smaller?

In 1967 Stanley Milgram, an American social psychologist, conducted a series of experiments to study the nature of “small world” – a phenomenon produced by the overlap of personal social networks. For instance, he tried to find out the average path length for social networks of people in the US. He sent out 160 packages to randomly selected individuals in Kansas and asked them to deliver the package to a person living in Boston, Massachusetts. Since the senders didn’t know the package recipient personally, they were allowed to forward the package to somebody they knew on a first-name basis and who were likely to know the final recipient. The first package reached the recipient in Boston via only two people. However, on average the delivery chain consisted of 5 people. That’s how the theory of “6 degrees of separation” appeared. It suggests that anyone is 6 or fewer steps away from any other person in the world.

One possible path of a message in the “Small World” experiment by Stanley Milgram in 1967. Image credits: Ageev Andrew

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How social networks theory led to changes in personal skills development trainings

Disclaimer:

This is the first of many posts you will find here in the upcoming weeks. Mostly I will post here my thoughts and findings related to the topics that are central for my studies of digital media and social networks. However, I reserve the right to write here about my travels and other interesting things as well. All the blog posts will be tagged accordingly, so if you are interested in my posts about social networks only, please feel free to use tags or navigation panel in the right column to filter the posts.

tippingpoint
photo credit: jgarber via photopin cc

This week in class we explored the psychological foundations of social networks. It is important to understand that human social networks ≠ online social networks. The first is a global phenomenon that could be observed even in hunter-gatherer societies; the latter is a specific manifestation of the social networks’ phenomenon that allows us to study human behavior in groups and societies on a whole new level. Online social networks allow researchers to find and visualize the hidden links between people in society and analyze the relations between networks’ members in an unbiased way, based on the digital data provided by platforms.

Social networks have a lot of amazing features and influence our lives in many unexpected ways. Do you know, for example, that your social network (that is, all the people you know and is connected with) is to blame if you are unhappy or have weight problems? On the other hand, without social networks (specifically the networks that are characterized by weak ties and structural holes), there would be no disruptive innovations, as they emerge mainly when people of different backgrounds meet.

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