>I couldn't agree more with Carter Butts. Another question, however,
>doesn't appear to receive much attention is whether the "Small World"
>phenomenon matters very much. In most of his work, Milgram liked to
>a splash by producing a flashy and counterintuitive phenomenon and then
>The point is whether the links in the chain which appears to tie two
>together are successively activated outside a deliberate experimental
>context. I happen to be two steps from Queen Elizabeth (through a
>academic colleague who became a politician and then a high government
>official in London) and hence three steps from most world leaders. The
>practical significance of this is nil.
While the likelihood of successfully "activating" the chain that links
you with any other person may be very small, is it not enormously more
likely than "activating" where there is no chain (of equally short
Granovetter (and others since) showed that it can matter in finding
Perhaps the effect is not the kind of thing we imagine. You seem to
be suggesting that your 2-step to the Queen might provide a basis for
some significant part for her majesty to play in your life or vice
versa. It may be that such ties DO work in that way for a portion of
people so connected -- I guess the number of people 2 links from the
Queen is quite large -- it may also be that the significance for most is
nil, and/or it
may be the effects are subtle or indirect. Can you be certain that link
has not had some indirect impact in your life?
Playing on the idea that any particular path may be meaningless while
the overall set, by virtue of the activation of some small portion of
IS meaningful, I wonder, if we isolated a population of people 2 steps
from the Queen, and compared them against a randomly selected group with
similar demographics, would we see no difference?
No doubt the quality of the tie (e.g. content, strength) beyond simply
knowing the person is crucial. Does anyone have data on how much
"larger" the world gets when more restrictive definitions of a network
tie are used?
Perhaps we should ask how the world would be different if most pairs
of people were 60+/- steps apart rather than 6+/-.