Hear Ye! Since 1998.
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8
Dec 02
Sun

Small World

The sociology department at Columbia University is running some fascinating research on the “small world” phenomenon and degrees of separation: the Small World Research Project. The project is a modern day, global scale replication of research work on social networks done by Stanley Milgram in the 60s. Milgram ran the experiment within America, and found an average of five people between any two given participants in the experiment (hence the popular phrase, six degrees of separation). Sign up to the experiment and give it a go.

Anyhow, I was at Denise’s 21st the other night. Remember my theory about degrees of separation and Sydney bloggers (this post)? Well the world got figuratively smaller that night when I bumped into Andrew while waiting to use the toilet. It turns out he’d come across this site as well. He expressed feeling a bit weirded out and uncomfortable by meeting someone who’s previously read about him through a web site. Which is interesting, because everyone who writes a blog (and especially if you publish webcam shots of yourself!), knows that the whole world can see what you’ve written and knows who you are. I have five years of archives, and I’m continually aware that it contains a wealth of personal information about me. Some of the beliefs I’ve expressed in the past, I no longer agree with, but have decided against removing the incriminating posts because this site reflects me and my experience in growing up. It is a small world, and if you bump into someone that knows you through your site, don’t be horrified, be pleasantly surprised! If I had anything to be uncomfortable about it was when I muttered, “Hmmm who is that in the toilet? They’re taking ages… I bet you it’s a girl…” to which he replied, “Yeah that’s my girlfriend Karen in there.” Oops :).

Karen later approached me, having heard the conversation through the door. (It was by coincidence I stumbled upon her site some weeks ago when I was searching for a photo of Gelatissimo.) Andrew pretty much matched the impression I got of his personality from his site, whereas Karen didn’t (although the exchange was very brief!).

It’d be interesting to see what roles institutions have on bringing social networks closer together. University is an incredible bridging force. I wonder how it compares to clubs, schools and the workplace, though. I should have done a sociology major hehe.

Update
Karen wrote on her site, “One thing I’m curious about (but I can’t ask on his blog coz he doesn’t have comments) is what he thought I was like from reading my blog, and what impression I gave when I met him. I seemed to be different from what he expected… hmm.. maybe it was the goth makeup.”
– The impression I got from your site is that you’re quite a perky, bubbly person, which in hindsight is probably a more accurate assessment of you than the 60 second exchange we had. That exchange was somewhat sombre (no doubt the makeup played a part!) and your voice is pitched lower (a more ‘matured’ tone) than what I would have expected. I was actually half wondering if you were a bit annoyed at my banter outside the bathroom because you weren’t smiling (maybe you were just ‘keeping in character’ with your alter ego for the night :).

Andrew asked on his site, “I have to ask Stuart – what kind of personality do I ooze from this site that matches me so well?”
– Well, with you, I pictured a typical Comp Sci student personality (with commerce thrown in for reasons relating to filial piety, right?) which pretty much matched your demeanour. Slightly harder to explain what a Comp Sci student personality is, but some people will know what I’m talking about! (It’s also probably a fairly good assessment of my demeanour.)