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Building Social Capital and Expanding Networks

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Sociology
Wordcount: 4833 words Published: 8th Sep 2017

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In 2005 MySpace was the most popular website on the internet, even more than Google. Samy Kamkar, a 19 years old computer enthusiast in attempt to find an exploit on the social website inserted some code to allow him to be added as a friend if someone visited his profile account, furthermore the code would replicate on the visitor’s account and those visiting the “infected” account would also add him as a friend. In just nine hours Samy reached 480 accounts. In thirteen hours he was up to 8800. And in just over eighteen hours he had spread to about a million accounts, which was almost 1/30 of the total accounts on MySpace at the time. In an attempt to get rid of the worm he deleted his account. However, when he successfully deleted his profile the whole MySpace went down too. Samy was convicted of computer hacking and ordered to not touch the internet for the next following three years.

What this really tells us is just how connected we all are.

This concept was well known even before MySpace was conceptualized. In 1929 the Hungarian writer Frigyes Karinthy wrote a story called Chains. In Chains one of the characters challenges another character to find on Earth a person who he cannot connect with in less than five intermediaries. This is where the six degrees of separation originated from.

The theory states that we are as connected to Donald Trump as much as we are to the fishmonger on the southern Japanese coast. This means that picking up two random people on the globe they are linked to each other in just six steps.

In 1960 a Harvard psychologist, Stanley Milgram, tested an experiment called ‘the small world experiment’, named after the phenomenon that happens at parties when you meet someone you don’t know but share a peer in common and say “it is such a small world”.
Stanley Milgram examined the average length between American citizens.  What he did was sending three hundred packages to people in Boston and Nebraska with the goal to reach a common target person in Boston, but they were not allowed to send the package directly to him but through an intermediate who might know him or forward it to a further person that had a better chance to know him and progress the same way. Of the three hundred packages sent, only 64 made it and the average path was 5.2 steps. And that was all the experimental confirmation the six degrees of separation had at the time.

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Few years before Milgram’s work, mathematician Paul Erdos experimented the same principle over similar networks and found out that when the number of links per node is small, the network is fragmented, however when exceeded one connection per node, the behaviour of the network changes and form a giant cluster where all the nodes seem kinked to each other. This cluster is what we might define as a small world network.

While these tests prove the Trump-Japanese fishmonger thesis stated above, on the counterpart true social networks work slightly different.

In 1994 Brian Turtle and two colleagues at Albright College in Reading, Pennsylvania created a game called Six Degrees of Kavin Bacon, the game, inspired by Karynthy’s theory, it consists in naming a celebrity and find a movie path to Bacon in as few steps as possible. Brian and his fellows came to conclusion that Kevin Bacon was the true centre of the movie universe. The movie network consists of actors who are connected by virtue of having acted together in one or more feature films. We are not just talking about Hollywood, but any movie made anywhere, anytime at all. According tothe Internet Movie Database (IMDB), between the years 1898 and 2000, roughly half a million people have acted in over two hundred thousand feature films. If you have acted in a movie with Kevin Bacon, you have a Bacon number of one (Bacon himself has bacon number of zero). Since Kevin Bacon has acted in quite a lot of movies and at last count had acted with 1550 people, it follows that 1550 actors have a Bacon number of one. This might sound a lot, and certainly Bacon has acted with many more people than the average, but it is still less than 1 percent of the total population of movie actors. Moving outward from Bacon, if you haven’t ever acted with him, but you have acted with somebody else who has, then you have a Bacon number of two. For example, Marilyn Monroe was in Niagara (1953) with George Ives, and George Ives was in Stir of Echoes (1999) with Kevin Bacon, so Marilyn has a Bacon number of two. In general, the object of the game is to determine an actor’s Bacon degree by figuring out his shortest to the great man. The small steps linking every actor to the next resembles a small world network, but unlike random network real social networks show a certain level of clustering in some points.

The key component in real social networks is not only to have a high degree of clustering that means that friends of mine have other friends that are friends to each other, but also to have some few random acquaintances in order to reach distant other social networks.

In 1970, a researcher named Granovetter published a paper called “The Strength of Weak Ties” where he stated that you as an individual are more likely to get a job through those random acquaintances than your close friends. In fact close groups of individuals are very likely to know the same people and share the same information, but are the random acquaintances that allow you to reach new jobs, places and be exposed to the outside world.

Since the advent of social networks the rate of six degrees of separation have significantly dropped in between four and five steps. In 2011 Facebook stated that 92% of their users were connected through just 5 steps and at the present trend it is very likely to drop even further in the following years.   Thus, it is clear how the weaker the tie the better opportunities we have access to.

Let’s explain this with a clear example: me, Simone, as an Italian immigrant, I moved to the United Kingdom as an undergraduate student and I knew only one person, so my social network was two including myself,  I was trying to find a job and I could find any, so one of my housemates told me his older sister is a supervisor into the local Hilton hotel and she might be able to give me a part time job as a waiter, I started working in hospitality and this gave me a lot of exposure and access to a lot wealthy people, including very successful individuals. I kept on studying Film editing and working in hospitality while deciding what to do with my life and along came this man on his 30s talking about while he was staying in Cardiff overnight, apparently he had some work to do at BBC Wales, I shared a couple of thoughts and told him I was interested in getting an entry position in post production so he asked me for my contact details. About a month later I received a call from a different person at BBC Wales where I was asked if I would be interested to attend a two weeks work placement at the Film Editing department.

Hence, new information came into my network that was not previously there, this opportunity ended up being much more fulfilling than what I had in mind originally. So, if I had not built this network of ties that opportunity would have never been presented to me, if I was not willing to go out my comfort zone and pursued interest in those people that had something for me I would perhaps gave up and never started postgraduate studies at the Bournemouth University.

This path of ties is defined as Social Capital.

Sociologist Pierre Bourdieu (1983) defined Social Capital as:

“The aggregate of the actual or potential resources which are linked to possession of a durable network of more or less institutionalized relationships of mutual acquaintance and recognition.”

He explains that much like money, the more friends, acquaintances and professional ties one has, the more knowledge one has, the more likely one is to be successful in a specific pursuit.

What is more important during university is building weak ties, interpersonal ties, each relation we tie with someone is different. Granovetter (1973) explains that there mainly three kinds of ties: weak, strong and absent. The strength of each can be correlated to an amount of time one spends with another, the emotional intensity of that tie, the level of intimacy involved, and the level reciprocity. Ideally, weak ties are low-time, low emotion, low-intimacy, high reciprocity ties formed for the purpose of transmitting information.

What we want to achieve is to build weak ties that allow us to bring brand new information and social capital inside our network. Weak ties are not only used to accumulate social capital, but also help us reduce our dependency from primary groups e.g. family, weak ties are Large-scale groups that give us social capital to inject back into our primary groups.

A way to build social capital through weak ties is using Online Social Networks (OSN) are what help us build weak ties and they are defined as purposeful online outreach programs with the aim of creating weak ties to bring new information (Social Capital) to an individual or primary group.

Social Capital:
features of social life – networks, norms, and trust – that enables participants to act together more effectively to pursue shared objectives…Social capital, in short, refers to social connections and the attendant norms and trust.

Putnam, 1995, pp. 664-5

There is often confusion about what ‘social capital’ is. At first glance has something to do with ‘community’. ‘Civil society’ and the ‘social fabric’ – it’s about how people are connected with one another.  P. 1

Up today, it is not clear what should be counted as social capital and what should be excluded from the concept. Societies are not composed of isolated individuals. People are connected with one another through intermediate social structures – webs of association and shared understandings of how to behave. This social fabric greatly affects with whom, and how, we interact and co-operate. It is this everyday fabric of connection and tacit co-operation that the concept of social capital is intended to capture.

Social capital is the sum of the resources, actual or virtual, that accrue to an individual or a group by virtue of possessing a durable network of more or less institutionalized relationships of mutual acquaintances and recognition. Acknowledging that capital can take a variety of forms is indispensable to explain the structure and dynamics of differentiated societies. (Bordieu and Wacquant, 1992, p. 119)

A number of critics have argued for a clearer distinction between the subcomponents of social capital. Putnam framed the concept in terms of its public goods aspects, explicitly including reference to the facilitation of co-operation. Social capital is composed of forms that have three basic components: network, norms, values and expectancies that are shared by group members; and sanctions.

These three components should be recognizable in almost any form of social association. They can be compared to one of the most familiar and ubiquitous forms of social capital – the traditional, locally embedded community, or neighbourhood. The first component is the social network. These relationships may vary from simple recognition to deep friendships. The second component is the social norms. These are the rules, values and expectancies that characterize the community members. Living in a neighbourhood, and our relationships with our neighbours, are characterized by certain rules or ‘social norms’. Many of these rules are unwritten. Some of these norms have a behavioural component and others may be more affective in nature. In the modern neighbourhood, these norms might include: helping our neighbours where possible; being courteous and considerate and feeling positive and supportive towards our neighbourhood. These norms may also include more specific habits of reciprocity. The third component is sanctions. Sanctions are not just formal – such as punishment for breaking the law. Most are very informal, but nonetheless effective in maintaining social norms (Luzzati, 2000). Neighbourhood living is associated with certain kinds of association on good and bad behaviour. These often appear very mild in form but are still very effective. Neighbours find ways of communicating their disapproval of acts that violate the unwritten codes of the neighbourhood. The sanction may be though someone being told directly, such as through a disapprovance glance, an angry exchange of words or even the threat of action. More commonly, however, the sanction is indirect and subtle, such as though gossip and reputation. The sanction can also be positive, such as praise for a helpful act.

Recent theoretical work has sought to break the notion of social capital down into different sub-types. Perhaps the most important of this distinction is between ‘bonding’ and ‘bridging’ social capital. In terms of networking Mark Granovetter made a distinction between ‘weak’ and ‘strong’ ties (M.S. Granovetter, 1973, 1985). Weak ties, he noted, such as with acquaintances and various ‘contacts’, were extremely useful to people in terms of getting information, opportunities and jobs. Strong ties, such as with family and close friends, provided a more intense, multi-stranded form of support, and as such might be expected to play a greater role in emotional well-being. In short different forms of social network, characterized by different forms of personal ties, seem to have different advantages and benefits.

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it is really important to think about the considerations that have to take into account when considering a network. Networks consist of nodes and edges.  If we consider Facebook network, the nodes represent the friends and the edges the friendships on Facebook.  However, in real life we need to be very clear about what the edges are. Do the edges indicate social relationships between the people? Do they connect people to the classes? Is it both?
Going back to the Facebook example, nodes represent people, however edges might represent not only friendship, which is absolutely fine, but an edge can connect two people who like the same music band or who went to same college. To the same extent, a LinkedIn network might reveal a different network of people according to the company they work for or people who have a similar level of expertise or certification to use professional software.

So if you consider a network based on friendship, what does it mean to have a high between this? In that case it means that the person contains a lot of information and really stands between different groups of people. While a high degree centrality can represent people who have a lot of connections.

So, let’s consider building a network of the MAPPE framework at Bournemouth University. Step one is going to be to define the nodes. What are they and what are the criteria for being included. Which people get included as nodes? Is it just the students? Is it teachers? Is it janitors, or the librarians? Generally you’ll want some mix, possibly between having just students and having all the teachers. If we only include students will lose a lot of tangential people who actually do contribute.   Once defines who the nodes are the next stop is to define the edges. What does an edge represent and what is the criteria for adding one, so if we continue with the same example of the MAPPE framework, we might want to add an edge if two people know each other but  what if they only know one of another? So, what if the two students are in two different courses of the framework and they never interact with each other and they never actually meet but they do know that each other exist? Their relationship could still be important.

I had been living between Wales and England for just five years and was beginning to feel like I had a new home with new friends, but still felt closely connected to my old ones. It occurred to me, however, that if you asked the average College student how close he or she felt to a random person in the United Kingdom, the answer would probably be “not very”. After all, most of my friends in Italy had never met another British before, and few of my British friends knew any Italian. The two countries are on virtually distant, and despite a certain cultural similarity and a good deal of mutual fascination, are viewed by most of their inhabitants as being almost impossibly distant, even exotic. Nevertheless, at least some small group of Italians and some small group of British actually were very close to each other, although they might not have known it, by virtue if a single common friend-me.

A similar state of affairs applied on a smaller scale between my different groups of friends at University of Bournemouth. I belong to the Department of Media and communication, which is a average size graduate department in which there are more foreign students than British. I spent an awful lot of time in this department and got to know the other graduate students pretty well. But I also worked as supervisor in a local Italian restaurant and the Hilton Hotel in Cardiff, and most of the friends from Cardiff were fellow media students in various related disciplines. Finally, I had lived in students houses and had made some good friends there. My classmates know each other, my housemates know each other, and my restaurant colleagues know each other. But the different groups were all quite, well, different, without me to come and visit, my housemates, for example, would have precious little reason ever to have a meal into my restaurant.

That two people can share a mutual friend whom each regard as “close”, but still perceive each other as being “far away” is a facet of social life at once commonplace and also quite mysterious. However, it is enough saying that we don’t just have friends, rather we have group of friends, each of which is defined by the particular set of circumstances that led to our getting acquainted. Within each group there will tend to be a high density of interpersonal ties, but ties between different groups will typically be sparse.

The groups, however, are connected by virtue of individuals who belong to more than one group. In time, these overlaps between groups may grow stronger, and the boundaries between them blur, as people from one group start to interact with people from another via the intermediation of a mutual friend. Over the years I spent at University of South Wales, my different groups of friends eventually met each other and occasionally became friends themselves. Even some of my Italian friends came to visit, and although they didn’t stay long enough to form any lasting relationships, the boundary between the two countries is now, in some small way, less distinct than it was.

According to Duncan J. Watts (2003) there are four major factors to consider when examining networks: First, social networks consist of many small overlapping groups that are densely internally connected and that overlap by virtue of individuals having multiple affiliations. Second, social networks are not static objects. New relationships are continually being forged and old ones abandoned. Third, not all potential relationships are equally likely. Those who I meet tomorrow depend by those who I know today. Finally, we occasionally do things that derive from our instinct, personal preferences, characteristics, and such actions may lead us to meet new individuals which we have no connection with. My decision to move to the United Kingdom was driven solely by my desire to go to graduate school, and I didn’t know a soul when I got there, nor did anyone else that I knew.

In other words, we do what we do in part because of the position we occupy in our surrounding social structure and in part because of our innate preferences and characteristics. In sociology, these two factors are called structure and agency, and the evolution of a social network is driven by a trade-off between the two. Because agency is the part of an individual’s decision making process that is not constrained by his or her structural position, actions derived from agency appear as random events to the rest of the world. Of course, decisions like moving to another country or going to graduate school are derived from a complicated mixture of personal history and psychology and so are not random at all. Once these apparently random affiliations have been made, however structure reenters the picture and the newly created overlaps become the bridges over which other individuals can cross and form additional affiliations of their own. The dynamic evolution of relationships in a social network, therefore, is driven by a balance of conflicting forces. On the one hand, individuals make what seems like random decisions to launch themselves into new social orbits. And on the other, they are constrained and enabled by their current friendships to reinforce the group structure that already exists.   Check 73 for finale

The use of Social Network Sites for the Employment Seeking Process Tom Sander Phoey Lee Teh

The Internet increases network density and constantly provide new opportunities for the individual. The job seeking process is heavily influenced by it. Companies and applicants can access information and resources instantaneously. The impact of Social Network platforms on the employment seeking individuals and the social capital@@@

While the importance of networking when seeking for employment has been widely explored in many articles (Granovetter) Social networks are arising new conditions for the society. Social Networks are increasingly becoming important in job hunting. A group of at least three individuals connected to each other with a tie is considered a social network. Social Networks over the Internet have a similar structure, the exchange of resources is web based, the size and speed of information is much faster than traditional networks.

Each social individual lives in social networks. Social networks can be split in three categories: the ones within the individual participate and contribute; those which existence is known to the individual finally those which the individual is unaware of. The first two are considered the most relevant individual as provide suitable positions and influence the daily life of the individual. (Olugin Olguin at al. 2009).

Those who seek employment gain valuable information from social networks, and while the support of social networks has been studied by many scholars the capital coming from web based social networks needs further investigation.

Social networks connect individuals to each other and enable collective actions and the sharing of information and resources. The members of a network are connected through relationships of various kind; this connections represent the mechanism which keeps the network connected and functional. Each connection can be more or less important to the individual.       P.100


Networks can be considered as a market where the individual can exchange, access, and share a great variety of goods and resources in pursuit of his/her interest. Certain individuals or groups of people receive higher returns in quicker period of time; some have higher positions and other lowers, and some reach their goals quicker than other. Human capital, as described by @@@, refers that the people who do better are those who are more capable and skilled than the others. Social capital is the contextual complement of human capital. The social capital says that those who do better are those who are more connected. Some people or groups are connected to others, sharing trust, supporting each other interests or being dependent on exchange to others. Being involved in one of relations is an advantage that goes under the name of Social Capital. BORDIEU, COLEMAN DEFINITION


As a former runner and assistant I must admit the life of a runner is no easy task and definitely not the most glorious in the film industry, but it is an essential step towards bigger and farer achievements. Essentially, a runner provides vital assistance to a senior figure in a company. The word ‘runner’ is not coincidence that refers to the mansion to make sure everything ‘runs’ smoothly.

For many, working as a runner is the most valuable experience to get a foot in the door of TV or Film industry. Typically it is expected to perform a great variety of tasks, from carry people and equipment around to serve coffees or picking up lunch for the entire crew. However what is most valuable about being a runner is networking. While performing the tasks you are assigned you are exposed to many professional figures and building relations to those individuals is much more worth it than anything you may learn during your time as a runner. Linking with higher positions may be the necessary step to move forward in career and move from runner to assistant. Being nice, willing and having a good attitude it is a better business card than your name and phone number on a piece of paper. You never know when an assistant vacancy will be open and

As Rees (1966) and Granovetter (1974) suggest, several job opportunities are accessible through social networks, for instance contacting friends, relatives or personal contacts. Because seeking employment can be costly in terms of resources and time, job seekers who access their social network tend to receive better and faster information compared to those who rely on more formal strategies such as job ads or private employment services. According to Granovetter (1974, 1995) better information travel through social networks and provide better options and positive effects such as increased wages or greater job satisfaction.

According to Montgomery (1992) we derive that not only obtaining a job via networks, but also just engaging in search through networks can lead to higher wages and cost effectiveness in job search.
Granovetter’s model assumes that social networks provide more job offers than formal job search methods. Furthermore Montgomery (1992) points out that if a job seeker received a job offer from formal methods, this does not exclude the chance to receive additional job offers from social networks that could offer a higher wage.

In addition to Montgomery’s study, Franzen and Hangartner (2006) assume the existence of what they call “job adequacy distribution” according which those who seek employment through social networks are more likely to access satisfying position as network contacts have better information on specific job characteristics as well as better information on the preferences of the job seeker.

Considering the population of graduates, in addition to the obvious characteristic of having low level of human capital, this group contains or will in the near future a very limited number of employed people. This situation presents a disadvantage because of lack of employed individuals which represent a major source of information in employment seek (Jackson, 2004). If the unemployed are not exposed to this kind of source there is very limited advantage into belonging to such network.

The strength of weak ties thesis emphasizes the informational advantages provided by networks (Granovetter, 1973). In particular, it remarks the chances of accessing non-redundant information about employment opportunities. The reason behind this assumption derives by the fact that weak ties help injecting different and unfamiliar pool of information inside primary networks.
Furthermore, Ensel (1981) and Villemez (1986) argue that job seekers with advantaged social resources, including networks, tend to obtain better labour market outcomes. Weak ties are considered better resources and facilitate access to unfamiliar information, hence considered to supply “better” offers.


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