« Beam Me Up, Howard | Main | Photography as Memory »

August 9, 2003

Six Degrees

Came across Duncan Watts' Small World project on Blogdex today. Watts was trying to test the "six degrees of separation" hypothesis--the idea that humans are separated by less than six links. I was somewhat surprised by Watts' conclusions--that the Internet has not significantly increased the social networks that reduce these links, essentially making the world "smaller." I do have some questions about his methodology: People were instructed to try to link to several targets, but links that appear to bring two people closer might actually fail to do so. But I'm not sure I disagree with his conclusions. The "six degrees" phenomenon (and its variation, "The Kevin Bacon Game") felt like narratives designed to explain the vast scope of cyberspace, simultaneously making it larger (it covers the whole world) and smaller (so we're really one big community) at the same time.

[Brief aside: How cool is this? Now they have an Oracle of Baseball based on the Kevin Bacon game that links "any two major league players by a shortest possible list of teammates."]

A good article summarizing Watts' "Small World" results apears in New Scientist, inlcuding the rather interesting observation that "messages were also more likely to reach their target if they were forwarded to someone of the same sex."

Posted by chuck at August 9, 2003 6:56 PM

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this entry:


Post a comment

Remember Me?

(you may use HTML tags for style)