US scientists investigate social networking

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US scientists investigate social networking

Tash Shifrin

Computer scientists at a US university have devised an experiment to test the effectiveness of social networks.

Interest in social networking has grown since 1969 when psychologists produced the “six degrees of separation” theory – the idea that everyone in the world is linked, with only six connections separating any two people. The internet – with social networking sites such as MySpace and the growing community of bloggers – has stoked interest in how these networks function.

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Engineering and Applied Science tested a number of social network theories by asking a group of students to play a colour picking game  on networked computers. Each student had to pick a colour that was different to that chosen by anyone who was immediately connected to him or her in the network. 

The scientists changed the connection in the network to match different theoretical models and varied the amount of information the students had about which colours were being chosen by their colleagues to test different types of social network.

The research, published in the Science journal, found that some of the simplest social networks were the least effective and that seeing beyond a local view of the network could hinder the functioning of more complicated social networks.


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