Random thoughts on networks and communications from a MACT student

Archive for the category “COMM 506”

Online Privacy..Is this possible?

This weeks discussion about online privacy and what measures the government has gone to invade people’s privacy has shocked me.  According to an article on Three Ways to Protect Your Online Privacy  the Federal Trade Commission is looking at putting five privacy measures in place by the end of this year.  Here is three of them:

1.   A universal “Do-Not-Track” tool that you could activate to prevent companies from recording your online activities and using them to display personalized advertising. Consumers would only have to opt-in once and companies would be required to comply — a big improvement over the piecemeal approaches currently available.

2.   Standard disclosures for mobile apps so users know exactly what data an app will access and how it will be used. For instance, if an app would use your contact list, you’d know that before you downloaded it. California has already called for this type of disclosure.

3.    A new website that would identify companies called data brokers who collect and sell your information to advertisers. The site would make it easy to see what information has been collected about you and who is using it.

Companies may not be able to track your “digital footprint” but the government still can. The title of the article is hypocritical as your online presence will never be private.


Anonymous: No leaders???

Anonymous: From Lulz to Collective Action

While going through this article, I was wondering about authority.  Anonymous is not supposed to have any “authority” figures but is this possible?  This goes back to Kadushin when he mentions that evenually “informal leaders” are created in groups.  I think there are leaders in any group. 

 Another interesting article is Why Anonymous will never be able to take down the power grid which argues against a Wall Street Journal article which reported that “government officials believed that the hacktivist group Anonymous might in a couple of years time acquire the capability to take down the power grid”.

Another similiar article is  Arrests Sow Mistrust Inside a Clan of Hackers 

 The article is based on “The Real Sabu” (informant for federal law enforcement authorities).  He used Twitter to boast, and encourage his followers to take part in “computer attacks against private companies and government agencies worldwide.”

Collective Action: now teachers can be innovators!

The below video is a great example of collective action.   Donors Choose is an educational charity that allows donors to choose to fund a variety of classroom projects and materials. Teachers post their projects online and then donors go online to donate and pick which project they would like to support.  Oprah mentioned this project during one of her show’s.  She said this is a great way for any teacher to be “an innovator”.



Will journalism go back to “old techniques”..pen and paper?

Julian Assange Rolling Stones Interview was interesting.   His advice for journalists, as quoted below, created several questions.   How will his incident affect the future of journalism, specifically to collecting sensitive data? Will journalists have to go back to the old style of pen and paper as Assange’s advice?  My personal thought is people will not leave their mobile devices at the office.  People are digitally connected and can’t “leave the office” without them.  With the increasing censorship will journalists hesitate to report the truth?  Smart phones,ipads etc are supposed to increase efficiency for day-to-day job duties but if organizations/government block certain websites and are censoring all emails, this is not increasing efficiency.  This is hindering as employees are unable to complete the task. 

In my organization, certain sites are blocked and our email is monitored. I personally do not find this to be an issue as I know that I have to maintain a professional image “online”.   I had to present a case of why I needed access to Facebook which I understand to a certain degree.

What advice do you have for journalists, based on your experience?
I have a lot of sympathy for journalists who are trying to protect their sources. It’s very hard now. Unless you’re an electronic-surveillance expert or you have frequent contact with one, you must stay off the Net and mobile phones. You really have to just use the old techniques, paper and whispering in people’s ears. Leave your mobile phones behind. Don’t turn them off, but tell your source to leave electronic devices in their offices. We are now in a situation where countries are recording billions of hours of conversations, and proudly proclaiming that you don’t have to select which telephone call you’re intercepting, because you intercept every telephone call.”

My many networks…how it all ties together!

I have been building on this post since May 1st. The purpose of this reflection was to see how many networks I am involved with on a daily basis. I am trying to figure out if any of this are “tied” together or what are the bridges between any two social circles.

MACT network was interesting as I realized over the past three weeks that I have a lot of ties that lead outside the “box” –

MACT student and I have a mutual friend (Mutual friend is outside of Mact so she is a weak tie)

MACT student has a tie with my father. The University of Albert is what we have in common. (MACT student is a weak tie)

MACT Denise-Mact Cohort 2012-Mact Cohort 2010 two students (both also connected to my work network)

Mact student and I have a mutual friend in the “triathlon network”

This ties into Kadushin’s small world concept.  It was interesting to see how many networks went outside the MACT “box”.

Citizen Panel: Two ties to MACT, one tie to work networks

Friends (several social circles)

Work network has a weak tie to my friend network.

Work Friends

Sports (1/2 Marathon Race, Triathlon, Crossfit group)


Are we being watched?

We are supposed to be living in a democratic country, but are we really?   “From YouTube to Twitter, Ottawa heard it all during the G20  and the (Un)lawful Access: wiring the Network for Control articles say otherwise. I was shocked to read these articles and realize how much control the government has.  The overall message is that all our devices are a “tracking” device.

This leads us  back to Kadushin’s chapter on organizations and networks which I blogged about “Organizations are not Democratic!”.  Top management are not “voted” in and employeess do not work in a democratic environment.

As I work for the municipal government, I get direction from my director and sometimes from city councillor.  Yes, I have autonomy but really the final decision comes down to the “leaders”.   For example I lead the community support program.  We are unable to support all the requests so some applicants have to be  turned away.  Some of these applicants choose to go “higher up” the heirarchy chain and then the application gets returned back to me with basically  a message that says to support this group.

Another example within organizations that ties back to these articles is the blocks on social media sites.  Some of the reasons I have heard is that employees will spend too much time on these sites and not get any work down or we are unable to control the messages regarding the organizations.

It Really is a “Small World”

I reposted some of the material that we discussed during COMM 506 on Small World’s as I feel this is worth posting.  This definitely is one of my “wow” moments for MACT 2012!

Today during our COMM 501 class, our professor was speaking about ethnography research.  She mentioned cultural anthropology and going through some of the disadvantages and advantages.  My father was a cultural anthropologist. I was deciding if I should mention this and to confirm with the professor’s statement (yes growing up with an anthropologist was interesting). This was a FYI  rather than a thought provoking idea (which rarely happens anyways!) I did mention it and after I rambled on,  I thought to myself “Why did I bring that up, very irrelevant”.  Well I finally was rewarded with talking too much in class, Dianne came up to me and said is your father Dr. Young? Yes he is and my father was her professor on two different occasions (late 80’s and again in early 90’s) at University of Alberta (U of A) and then I said “What a SMALL WORLD.. and then I realized holy, this is what Kadushin (minus the fact that the nodes are objects in this example) was talking about in Chapter 8! Ding ding, now I “somewhat” understand!

Below is an artistic diagram drawn by  Dr. Kate Milberry  to explain what was going on with the network.  There are two redundancies as there are two different ways to get to the nodes as per the diagram.  The U of A is what all three nodes have in common. Right now Dianne and I are strong ties as we have MACT/U of A in common.  Dianne and my father  had strong ties while there was the teacher/student relationship during the U of A class but now they have a weak tie because there is no connection to the  U of A. 

What striked my curiosity was how Dianne knew that is was my father as the last names are different?  She said that  mentioning the three nodes (U of A, Anthropology and Health) had triggered it or she is extremely intuitive!

To read another small world examples visit Heather’s blog!  This one is excellent as it spans internationally!

Remove the Obstacles

Shirky talks about collective intelligence in chapter 6 of Here Comes Everybody.  He shares that it is “considerably harder than simple sharing, but the results can be more profound”.  This is referring to the concept of working in small compared to big groups. 

Web 2.0 is an example of social collaboration where the ability of individuals can create and share information to achieve goals that cannot be achieved by a single individual or closed organization.  Business can use social software and group collaborative technologies to have employees co-create, cross reference, bookmark, tag and work in virtual spaces to create company value.  Incremental contributions of the collective creates value as do the communities of practice that businesses can create internally and with external partners.

The advent of these easy to use technologies is allowing businesses to be more innovative and creative by tapping into the collective intelligence of their employees, customers and even through ‘crowd-sourcing.”  At my organization we are using  social tools to reach out to our customers.  An example is we are allowing our customers to design the bus passes.  This contest is being administered through Facebook.  Yes ETS could have administered the contest pre-new media but  a lot of people would have not entered due to the fact of inconvience. This supports Shirky’s statement that social tools did not create collective action, “they merely remove the obstacles to it”.  People have always shared information but it has changed throughout the years and in today’s society it is easier to share due to “new media”.  I have a reading file that a co-worker gave to me that dates back to 1997. This is not “collective action” but it is information sharing which is a major component of collective action.

Organizations are not Democratic!

Kadushin chapter on organizations and networks was an interesting read.   The topic that had me thinking the entire chapter and still thinking is organizations are not democratic.  Yes, should be common sense but I have never veiwed an organization as this way.  Here is my random thoughts and hope you can follow my thought process!

How many times have you heard or thought yourself, “How did that manager/supervisor get hired for this position?”.  In my case,  some were not qualified and some just did not have a “likeable” personality.  Some leaders are hired into a position of authority but some leaders “design” their position. By this I mean that someone will buy a business, which automtatically defaults them to being a “leader” even though they may no experience on leading.

Could organizations be democratic? Employees could vote on who they think the leader should be.  It could be similiar to the current political elections.  Managers would have to debate their platform to the employees, employees would vote who they think the best candidate would be.   My personal opinion on my example would be in theory it could work but realistically it would not work. The potential issues would be employees voting for their friends, time constraints, and people voting for their personal needs not what is best for the organization as a whole.

Then I thought of comparing what the process is in municipal, provincial, and federal elections?   I am assuming that people vote for what is in the best interest of their community/city, province, and country but do they actually vote according to their own personal interests?  And how many vote without knowing what the candidates platforms are?  So these issues are in political elections as well so maybe it could work for organizations. One argument could be the financial implications of voting in the wrong leader in an organization but of course this is true in elections as well.

Kadushin view on Small Groups, Leadership, and Social Networks

 My personal opinions on Kadushin concepts, theories on Small Groups, Leadership, and Social Network:

1. Do not agree that there are “pure” systems.  I don’t think there are any pure systems. Network’s extend outside of the “network box”.

2. Leadership: How are informal leaders determined?  In addtion to people choosing a leader, do some leaders choose themselves to be in that role?  If an informal leader is not respected by all group members is this a “true” leader?

Summary of the concepts and theories  and definitions for COMM 506 presentation

Small Networks:

everyone knows each other

actions of the members of the networks are visible to all

are individual people rather than collective actors

Small Groups

are the “primitives” of social network analysis

How and why small groups are formed

Motivation to establish rankings (safety, effectance, status)

Defining the boundaries using balance theory and triads

Why are small groups important to analyze?

 Small group networks will be used to compare  the informal small groups with the formal systems of organizations.

Formal System or External System:

Primary and face-to-face groups in which relationships are recommended by the organization.

Primary Group: interactive unit that is observed by an outsider

Example: Experiments

Informal System or Internal System:

  • Small “formal” groups develop clusters or cliques
  • The cliques are formed by ties and common sentiments
  • These “informal groups” develop or reinforce certain common ideas or styles of relating to one another
  • Cliques will naturally form a ranking system.
  • The “informal” leaders are those who rank the highest and are the most “preferred” because they enforce the “norms” of the group.

Homans’s lists eight propositions but they do not differentiate between the external and internal systems as the informal system is embedded within the external system. 

Kadushin states these systems need to be differentiated by finding informal systems that are “pure”.

Homan: interaction leads to sentiment, and in turn to interaction, and in turn to a ranking system with leaders”.

Pure Informal Systems

  • “Network in a box” or where boundaries are very clear.
  • Everyone in network can “see” everyone.
  • Relationships are likely to be symmetrical

How to locate Pure Informal Systems

Use empirical tests of the sociological concept of group:

  • Triadic balance theory (if all three relations are positive or if two are negative and one is positive)
  • Granovetter’s concept of weak and strong ties
  •           G transitive (two people are strongly connected but the third is weakly tied to the other two)
  •           Pure informal groups are rare so this method has been not used often

As pure informal systems are rare most informal systems are embedded in the formal system. This leads to evaluating the asymmetric ties and the influences of the external system.

  • Kadushin states that “individual  interactions and motivations are components of Homans’s sentiments”
  • The three key reasons, as discussed in chapter five, why people are motivated to interact is 1. safety or affiliation 2. Effectance and 3. Seek status or rank.
  • People differ in the strength of these motivations so the shape of the system is not entirely dependent on the external system or the dynamics of interaction

Formalizing the System

The advantage is to create conclusions which are based on Gould’s mathematical formulation using attachments received, social influence, and actor quality.

The propositions are:

  1. Asymmetry: is proportion to the differences in ranking
  2. Asymmetry declines with group size
  3. Actor who are similar with respect to quality get similar choices from similar others and , consequently, direct similar choices to these others
  4. Since actors direct choices to others in proportion to those received, actors with the highest number of choices received are also those with the highest degree of interaction directed toward others.

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