Networks of Individuals or Individual Networks?

I read the first two chapters of Duncan Watts’ book, Six Degrees. In that book he covered a lot of the concepts that we discussed in class. However, one thing that Watts brought up a couple of times in the chapters was the unreliability of the data. For example, he talked about how normal social situations don’t actually reflect random social connections. Most of the people that we know are not random people from around the world, but rather people near where I live. Because our connections are not random, this makes modeling more difficult.

Another point that I thought Watts made really well was the difference between studying the network and studying the individuals. I was wondering what you guys thought was a better way to assess networks? Personally, I that the best way to assess networks is a combination of both methods. This was best shown through the story that Watts told about the power surges in the British electrical network due to people putting their kettle on during soccer halftimes. The behavior of the people is individual, but they are all part of a network.

Also, on a (slightly related) note: In COS 126, we were discussing this same concept and the professor showed us this website: www.oracleofbacon.org. It tells you the degrees of separation between Kevin Bacon and any other actor. Enjoy! — Cara