Linked By Barabasi

For this week’s readings, I chose to read the book “Linked How Everything Is Connected to Everything Else and What It Means” by Barabasi. Networks are everywhere! Indeed! Barabasi provides a detailed summary and history of progression of the complex social networks and the related theories. He provides a compelling account of how networks behave with ample examples varying from networks made of humans to the digital platforms on the internet. Barabasi clearly states that the purpose of the book is to understand networks, their emergence, and their evolution. He says “the book shows you a web-based view of nature, society, and business, a new framework for understanding issues ranging from democracy on the web to the vulnerability of the internet and the spread of deadly viruses”. We, as humans are part of many small and large networks throughout our life. Barabasi’s account of network science to give us the understanding of how the networks are interconnected and how they shape our world; by utilizing examples from sociology, computer science, economics, and biology is fascinating.

In this digital age, the word “network” is widely used. However, the book by Barabasi provided me a completely different perspective of the “Network science”. In this ‘superconnected’ digital world, the technology contributed to the networks forming everywhere. But why? How does digital revolution aid in forming networks everywhere? Barabasi describes the most important component of the networks is connectors: “they are a handful of people with an extraordinary knack of making friends and acquaintances”. He calls them the fundamental property of any network, intriguing to many, it brings experts from varied disciplines together. Barabasi states “connectors are the thread of society, smoothly bringing together different races, levels of education, and pedigrees”. In my opinion, the digital platforms and modern social media play a significant role as a “connector”. It has become a global platform where people can connect with others on a much faster scale than the traditional setting. In fact, the connections and networks made on the digital platforms often end up making kinships in real life or meeting face to face. The role of digital technologies as a “connector” goes beyond social networking and it often can have negative consequences. To describe the vulnerabilities of networked modern society, Barabasi provides an example of ‘MafiaBoy’, who was behind the hack and halting the operations of billion dollar empires like Yahoo, Amazon, and CNN. He also discussed the harm done by “Love Bug”, the most damaging computer virus ever.

The digital technologies and social media have made efficient for us to form networks to such extents that Milgram’s “Six degrees of separation theory” which was considered as a myth is becoming more accurate every day. In fact, Facebook research team suggested in 2016 that at any given point, two strangers on Facebook are distanced by only three degrees of separation. The World is becoming denser and networks are becoming denser with them. This proximity to each other has had an impact on our behavior, culture, and norms. We are being shaped by our networks and our networks are shaped by us.

One thought on “Linked By Barabasi

  1. I think understanding the laws and functioning of networks may be key to understanding the laws, functioning and possibly the inevitability of inequality. Does the rise of digital networks challenge inequality or exacerbate inequality? Theoretically, the digital age should challenge it since it decentralizes knowledge and power. Yet, there has been a concurrent rise in inequality as the digital age as come about. Is there a connection?

    http://extremedemocracy.com/chapters/Chapter%20Three-Shirky.pdf

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