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Wednesday, October 08, 2003 - 12:29 PM

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Awareness ResearchSomething central to Imaginify is the awareness of community as a "network," and our response to the current trend of Social Network Analysis. This is a mathematical metaphor like imagining the universe is an automaton like mechanical clockwork, purely an abstraction for the purpose of simplicity and utility overlooking all the richness and complexity of real human and universal relationships.
Take for example a recent paper in the peer-reviewed Internet journal First Monday A Social Network Caught in the Web. An important facet of all sociology is that what is always being measured is collective individuals' perception of society, because the methodology is interviews, surveys and formally the telephone. So the question to always ask of this research is, how is the act of scientific social observation contributing to the self-organization of society into rationalizable patterns? Enter the Web community and Club Nexus at Stanford with important insights for those who are aware that every Internet organization is using these tools to visualize their social complex, and by observing, affecting it and introducing order.

Providing this sort of visualization for every member of Imaginify would be a powerful service, something for which conscientious people would pay reasonable dues. It's a much better way to surf the member directory than scrolling down a linear list.

I was first introduced to SNA (Social Network Analysis) in June 2002 at the QuantumVIZ conference by Valdis Krebs, the godfather of the field. Krebs' Orgnet is a well written introduction to social network studies. His software InFlow is the standard tool for analyzing social networks, which IBM uses to wow their consulting clients by mapping their industrial social structures with precision.

Peter Morville of Semantic Studios reminded me of this dynamic, this obvious demonstration of the physical force of consciousness, how awareness affects real outcomes. In his blog he analyzed the social network of his discovery of social networks with clear graphics and explanation, leading up to IBM's Babble interface for online community with social net visualization continuously informing the dialogue.

However, his is the exception that proves the rule, because the sociological discipline of SNA is spiralling into the postmodern pit of self-referential social networks of people who talk about social networks. An example is the Institute for Social Network Analysis of the Economy, which seems to pursue the noble purpose of nearby Stanford to finding ways to make money for the select few people who are in the social network. Or at least, this is the promise they hold out to people who pay to attend the events. You can read all about it on Jay Cross' blog who explains a lot of the basic concepts introduced to the audience at a launch party hosted at The Park (PARC = Palo Alto Research Center). Mark Granovetter is the Stanford sociologist who leant his name and reputation to the venture.

An Objective, or should we say Subjective, of Imaginify Community should be to make these tools more widely available for the purpose of healthy social construction. Allowing the artistic activist community to perceive itself in action is the greatest catalyst we could provide for creative cultural evolution.

For more resources, search term "Social Network Analysis" and be sure to review the software tools already semi-available in the international public domain here.

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