Today I read a great two-part article in Salon.com about social networking software, entitled "You Are Who You Know" by Andrew Leonard.
Leonard raises challenging questions about the world of Orkut, LinkedIn, and other social networking tools. Are people flocking to these tools in the vain hope that computers can somehow overcome ordinary human obstacles to building relationships and communities? And what about privacy? The information we willingly submit to these digital communities is enough to make sociologists and market strategists salivate, and we all stand to benefit, but are we giving up too much in the deal?
Leonard's pointed questions bounce in my mind off recent memories of three excellent books on various aspects of networks: Bowling Alone by Robert Putnam, Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell, and Six Degrees by Duncan Watts. I'll reflect more on the connections between these authors in future posts.