Keith Hampton. How new media affords network diversity

Keith’s blog :: new paper: How new media affords network diversity.

Keith Hampton’s work is quite interesting. His new paper, How new media affords network diversity: Direct and mediated access to social capital through participation in local social settings, in print in New Media & Society. Co-authored with my former students Chul-joo Lee (The Ohio State) and Eun Ja Her, addresses, as he puts it, “two important questions:

  1. Are people’s social networks (the real stuff, not just Facebook) less diverse as a result of their participation in mediated activities? In other words, does the Internet create silos?
  2. If ICTs are are associated with higher levels of diversity, how does the diversity associated with online engagement compare to the diversity associated with offline engagement (in public spaces, voluntary groups, church, cafes, neighborhoods, etc)?”

I leave it to the reader to investigate his argument, but his conclusion surely resonates with those engaged in online community development and management:

The pervasive awareness afforded by many new technologies has more in common with a traditional village-like community than it does with individualized person-to-person contact. Pervasive awareness provides a shared history, familiarity of daily labor, shared context, density, and public life that is reminiscent of traditional village life. The fundamental difference between a village-like community and the person-to-network structure that characterizes contemporary networks is the possibility for personal networks that are larger and more diverse than at any time in human history. I go on to explore how newer technologies, such as “social search,” in which the use of the internet to search for information privileges or limit exposure to information 
collected or accredited by members of a person’s social circle, may promote prevailing ideology and information while omitting important bridges, divergent views, and unique resources that exist between networks – possibly reversing the trend found in this paper and the advantages of network diversity.

Emphasis mine. 

What this means is of course… well, it won’t really alter how I others conduct our business. But what it does do is, for me, emphasize the nature of our commons-based community projects and, arguably, the expectations attached to them by our sponsors, say. I suppose that one way of thinking of it–at least the way I’ve long advocated–is that open source communities are not circles of friends but of colleagues and collaborators; and that though trust is the currency of any community, here it is stamped by the credit earned through accountable work and good-faith effort. Perhaps this is not too different from the kind of manners one would find structuring a Rousseau-vian social contract, where the public expectation speaks nothing to the inner man but everything to the obligation to live up to one’s dynamic in the world.