Sunday, May 6, 2012

How are social networks like carbon?

Among other things, the following video featuring Nicholas Christakis (Professor of Sociology, Medical Sociology and Medicine) in a presentation at Harvard University inspired me to write a cross-curricular yearly project about social networking.

Actually, I was supposed to plan a teaching sequence for an in-service teacher training course, but little by little the teaching sequence became four teaching sequences and so the whole thing had to be redesigned as a yearly project - just a bunch of short teaching sequences.

I implemented this project in two classes at a technical secondary school by the second week in May in 2012. In one class, the project was successfully completed with just few adjustments here and there. In the other class, the project had to be extensively adapted and I'm still wondering up to what extent students were able to learn something at all...

Well, what’s the video about?

I won’t tell you:-D

Let's watch the video and as you watch, think over these questions:

How many kinds of social networks are there? How do social networks form? How do they work? What do they look like?

When and where are social networks set?

What purposes do social networks serve? Why do people get involved in social networking services?

How do social network sevices affect our daily lives? Which aspects of our lives are affected? How?

What is the relationship between reciprocity/collaboration and social networks? What about social networking services?

What is the point of a ‘connected’ life? Is there any possible advantages/disadvantages? If so, which one(s)?

What is the relationship between social networks and social capital? what role(s) do social networking services play? 

What do you think about the way Prof. Christakis introduces the concept of capitalism and describes it? Which political stance underlies this part of the presentation? Do you agree with his point of view?

How does he connect education, social networks and human capital? Do you agree with his ideas and point of view? Is he speaking about social networks or social networking services? Is it important to know the difference? If so, why?

Prof. Christakis puts forwards a given specific use for social networks. Which one? Now, what other potential uses could social networking have?

Taking account of the fact that social networks are made up of people connecting to other people, do you think the analogy he uses (graphite vs diamond) to illustrate his ideas is appropriate/felicitous? Think about the properties of each material and try to match these properties to different social groups. Which social group is the diamond? Which one is the graphite?

Just before ending the presentation (10:07), Prof. Christakis goes back to the main idea of the whole talk and makes it explicit. What do you think? Do you agree with him? Why?
I hope you find this video as interesting, relevant and thought-provoking as I’ve found it. Enjoy!