Small world networks and smart mob formation
August 16th, 2007

Scott Sanders has posted a long, thoughtful, and citation-filled conjecture about the formative conditions for smart mobs, especially in relation to small world networks, in SIDE Theory, Small World Networks, and Smart Mob Formation: A Beginners Guide:

SIDE theory and small world networks fit neatly into this framework of the necessary preconditions for initiating a smart mob. First, individuals must have the necessary social identity for a smart mob to form. People will not respond to any message, just the ones that they feel are relevant to them. Second, while the social identities that could potentially lead to a smart mob likely persist over time, the social climate must be exact in order for smart mobs to develop. Social identities must be activated via the process of social-categorization by contextual features in the environment or by interaction with others. Additionally, others do not have to be present for this to occur. Contextual cues, such as the beating of the lifeguards at Cronulla beach, increase the salience of social identities so that they can potentially be activated by an SMS calling for specific action. It is for this reason that smart mobs are relatively uncommon. Finally, the nature of social networks as small world networks coupled with SMS technology is essential to the development of smart mobs. SMS provides a method for alerting many people simultaneously to the call for the formation of a smart mob. Small world networks’ structures facilitate the spread by allowing messages to be received by individual nodes with a minimal number of linkages. The combination of these factors allow smart mobs to form instantaneously. Further network mechanisms serve to filter and promote the spread of initiating messages.


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