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A Different Kind of Social Physics: Online Communities and the Revolution in the Architecture of Our Social Spaces

Speaker: Zeynep Tufekci

Start: Wednesday, May 28, 2008, 12:00PM

Location: JHU Applied Physics Laboratory

Abstract: Everyday, tens of millions of people chat, text, email, poke, twitter, IM and facebook (and, yes, that is a verb). They do what people have always done: they make friends and mark enemies, they assert and seek status, they look for affirmation and for connection, they check out the competition and, above all, they seek the comfort of community. Contrary to earlier predictions, people do not undertake revolutionary, unheard of acts just because the medium is new. In fact, the rise of social computing is hardly surprising to social scientists: we know this is what people do. The significance of this development lies from not the acts themselves but in the characteristics of the environment.
      The social physics of online communities are starkly different than those of the offline world -- and that has far-reaching consequences. A different type of optics, audience, persistence, traversability and other structural attributes combine to create a different kind of social architecture. However, all evidence so far shows that most people bring to this new medium the cultural vocabulary of the regular, offline world (and, indeed, what else could they do?). This talk will explore the potential consequences of millions of mundane acts performed in a new kind of medium, as well as research opportunities presented by this revolution in the shape of our sociality.

Tags: social media, sociology

 

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  1. (Event) A Different Kind of Social Physics: Online Communities and the Revolution in the Architecture of Our Social Spaces has PowerPoint slides (Resource) A Different Kind of Social Physics
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