In social networks, group boundaries promote the spread of ideas, study finds

Katherine Unger Baillie,, Jul 01, 2015
Commentary by Stephen Downes

Here's the proposition: "breaking down group boundaries to increase the spread of knowledge across populations may ultimately result in less-effective knowledge sharing. Instead, his research shows that best practices and complex ideas are more readily integrated across populations if some degree of group boundaries is preserved." Like so many things, though, there are different ways of looking at the same thing. Where he sees boundaries, I see clustering. It is well known that there is a 'sweet spot' of connectivity somewhere in the middle between zero connectivity and 100% connectivity, between zero signal and total static. The shape of the network matters. But do we describe this shape in terms of boundaries? "When a society is too grouped, people do not have any social contact with people from other groups," Centola said. "People with the same job all attended the same school, live in the same neighborhood and frequent the same clubs. Their networks do not expand beyond that group."

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