Friday, March 26, 2010

A Research Conversation

Not blogging enough; but here's a cool different way I just thought about my research while chatting with a friend over Google Talk. I am just pasting the interesting part!

Me: The title of my presentation is: "How Birds of a Feather Flock Together on Online Social Spaces".
Friend: So whats the conclusion?
Me: Yes they do; but depends on the context.
Friend: There is a but there; things are not certain?
Me: Well there a bit detail in it; so "flocking together" is called "homophily"; and homophily can exist due to several different user attributes such as "being phd students" is one, or on a more serious note, e.g. ethnicity, gender, location, activity behavior. Homophily can exist along any or more of these dimensions. So the conclusion is: birds of a feather indeed flock together on online social spaces, but along which dimension they wud flock, often depends upon what kind of a social action these people are accomplishing online e.g. to find a good restaurant the homophily dimension is likely to be location while to understand a technical concept it cud be your colleagues.
Friend: Perhaps a life outside of online networks is not different? What's special about online?
Me: Life online is slightly different; in the sense our physical world lives mostly center around micro networks i.e. our small set of 20 friends. So very likely these people are similar to us in more than one dimension. But online we often tend to bridge across multiple dimensionalities with people extremely diverse in nature; especially when we get engaged in transmitting different "internet memes"; or the way these days we consume information, say RSS Feeds. These make our interactions highly global in nature. Though embedded in a small set of our "online friends" we tend to develop "shortcuts" or bridges across people who are essentially part of the larger macro network; making our online lives quite drastically different from our social engagement in the physical world.

The reason I like this conversation is because it justifies the point of my thesis hypothesis, i.e. why it is important to study social interactions that exist in online environments. Rest would follow after I am done with the comprehensive exam questions. I have a few very interesting ones so far; so hopefully more cool thoughts and insights in the coming days until the proposal defense time!