L14.p5 - Signals in Social Supernets

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Signals in Social Supernets http://jcmc.indiana.edu/vol13/issue1/donath.html 1 of 19 09-03-09 07.22 JCMC Home Submit Issues Author Index Editors About JCMC Donath, J. (2007). Signals in social supernets. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication , 13 (1), article 12. http://jcmc.indiana.edu/vol13/issue1/donath.html Signals in Social Supernets Judith Donath MIT Media Lab Go to a section in the article: Abstract Social network sites (SNSs) provide a new way to organize and navigate an egocentric social network. Are they a fad, briefly popular but ultimately useless? Or are they the harbingers of a new and more powerful social world, where the ability to maintain an immense network—a social "supernet"—fundamentally changes the scale of human society? This article presents signaling theory as a conceptual framework with which to assess the transformative potential of SNSs and to guide their design to make them into more effective social tools. It shows how the costs associated with adding friends and evaluating profiles affect the reliability of users' self-presentation; examines strategies such as information fashion and risk-taking; and shows how these costs and strategies affect how the publicly-displayed social network aids the establishment of trust, identity, and cooperation—the essential foundations for an expanded social world. Grooming, Gossip, and Online Friending Social ties provide many benefits, including companionship, access to information, and emotional and material support (Granovetter, 1983; Wellman, Garton, & Haythornthwaite, 1997; the number of ties increases access to these benefits, although time and cognitive constraints preclude indefinite expansions of one's personal network. Yet if maintaining ties were to become more temporally efficient and cognitively effective, it should be possible to increase the scale of one's social world—to create a "supernet" with many more ties than is feasible without socially assistive tools. The question this article addresses is whether social network sites (SNSs) are a technology that can bring this about. In the wild, apes groom each other, picking through fur to remove parasitic bugs. This behavior helps with hygiene and is relaxing and pleasant for the recipient. Perhaps most importantly, it establishes social bonds: Apes who groom each other are more likely to help each other and not fight. Long grooming sessions are time consuming, however. Since the ape must also spend many hours finding food, sleeping, etc., it is clear that grooming can sustain only a limited number of relationships (Dunbar, 1996). In Grooming, Gossip, and the Evolution of Language , Robin Dunbar (1996) argued eloquently that in human societies, language, especially gossip, has taken over the social function of grooming. Instead of removing lice from each other's hair, people check in with friends and colleagues, ask how they are doing, and exchange a few words about common acquaintances, the news, or the local sports team (Dunbar, 1996,
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This note was uploaded on 03/01/2011 for the course 1MD 001 taught by Professor Erikborälv during the Spring '09 term at Uppsala.

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L14.p5 - Signals in Social Supernets

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