Steven Johnson (author of Emergence) writes about new software which analyses the informal groups that permeate our personal and work lives. The beginning is fascinating:
In his classic novel Cat’s Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut explains how the world is divided into two types of social organizations: the karass and the granfalloon. A karass is a spontaneously forming group, joined by unpredictable links, that actually gets stuff done as Vonnegut describes it, “a team that do[es] God’s Will without ever discovering what they are doing.” A granfalloon, on the other hand, is a “false karass,” a bureaucratic structure that looks like a team but is “meaningless in terms of the ways God gets things done.”
No doubt you’ve experienced these two types of networks in your own life, many times over. The karass is that group of friends from college who have helped one another’s careers in a hundred subtle ways over the years; the granfalloon is the marketing department at your firm, where everyone has a meticulously defined place on the org chart but nothing ever gets done. When you find yourself in a karass, it’s an intuitive, unplanned experience. Getting into a granfalloon, on the other hand, usually involves showing two forms of ID.
For most of the past 50 years, computers have been on the side of the granfalloons, good at maintaining bureaucratic structures and blind to more nuanced social interactions. But a new kind of software called social-network mapping promises to change all that.
One of the applications is in analysing emails to “create a remarkably sophisticated assessment of your various social groups, showing you not only their relative size but also the interactions between different groups.”
We also need to think how we can use this to analyse blogs and get the clusters that (informal) bloggers are part of.