Before embarking on a journey of exploring and assessing the connectedness between myself and the #CuriousCoLab community, a stronger understanding of Social Network Analysis was needed.
This began with a “check-in” with TED! Not surprising, at least to me, TED came through (as always) with a talk by Tracey Rizzuto in “The Power of Invisible Threads,” where she stated, “relationships are threads that tie us together, these threads knit patterns that shape and unfold and influence our lives.” She then goes on to describe the phenomenon of invisible threads, which “connect us to people we have never met or places we have never been” and “tie us to a broader community tapestry.” She emphasizes that invisible power does not equate to being less powerful.
Viewing the TAGSExplorer is not visually appealing, a bunch of dots, um nodes, making up a very tangled, sphere-like shape, a somewhat painful reminder of how my daughter’s un-brushed hair looks. Moving on past that feeling, another thought that comes to mind is a feeling similar to looking up into the sky, at the community of stars that hang overhead. A vast community consisting of an endless number of stars and a personal reminder of how large the world can feel. Beyond those stars is something I do not ever expect to experience tangibly. Very much like earth, this tangled sphere of nodes is rotating, causing slight frustration, while trying to find one’s own node. Both Social Network Analysis and the stars in the sky, are a reminder that the world we live in is enormous, yet there are daily threads, both invisible and visible, connecting each one of us. The rotating sphere is representative of the very fact that these threads are not stationary or unchanging, yet changing shape and being woven in various directions every second of one’s day.
It is exciting to be a part of an emerging connected learning community, especially during my doctoral education pursuit, which is reflective of my commitment to lifelong learning. Incorporating a reflection on this aspect of our open-access summer course is vital to one’s understanding of engagement. The dots (nodes) are both figuratively and literally connecting, as I continue my personal engagement of learning. This uncharted territory took me beyond the traditional classroom setting and into a social media community of learning and engagement. However, the journey has only begun…
Reflecting on personal contributions made during the past 6 weeks has shown to be steady and moderate, a current summary showing 123 connections, 133 tweets, 49 replies, and 33 mentions. Some action steps for one seeking to grow their, and my own, personal learning network can include:
- A weekly review of “who to follow” within one’s Twitter feed, to regularly increase one’s total “following” count, and ensure someone significant has not been overlooked.
- Regular and consistent tweets can be an exercise in building rapport with current followers and can result in a “re-tweet” here and there.
- Re-tweets lead one to gaining more followers. You have to be “noticed” to be followed.
- Don’t be afraid to make personal connections, just because it is social media. Remember basic courtesies like “@__________, Thank you for adding me!”
- Finally, as you get to know your network and find a relevant article or something you know would be of interest to an individual in your network, share it. Why not? After all, it’s free! And most likely your gesture and contribution to their learning will be appreciated.
Ennis & West (2012), discuss how social network analysis (SNA) can be utilized in a process of community development. Examining the connections between individuals informs both an internal and external focus on the community, the former acknowledging the strengths and resources, while the latter views the broader social structures. Social network analysis is strongly recommended for the adoption-competent community PARticipants to consider as a tool for critically analyzing the community and what barriers and gaps currently exist as well as what resources and assets are currently under utilized. Through the use of SNA significant contributions can be made within a community to empower individuals and organizations to dialogue and connect. Finally, through SNA changes in community relationships and structure can be measured, thus providing insight into whether specific aims of a community project were achieved (Ennis & West, 2012).
Ennis, G. & West, D. (2012). Using social network analysis in community development practice and research: a case study. Community Development Journal, 1-18.
This post is a part of my ongoing participation in Collaborative Curiosity – an online course in community-engaged research sponsored by Virginia Commonwealth University. The course is FREE and open to anyone. You can join us on Twitter with #CuriousCoLab. You can follow me on Twitter @BreunBelcherSW