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I have written on balancing weak and strong tie needs when designing for
online communities, notably learning environments. Computer-supported
collaborative learning perspectives (CSCL) value a wide range of opinion,
but computer-supported collaborative work (CSCW) perspectives focus on
specific tasks -- hence one privileges weak ties, the other strong.
However, actual students, like workers, need to get tasks done, and thus
need strong tie support. This leads to social and technical design
considerations that aim to support both kinds of ties.
The most descriptive paper on this is a book chapter
Haythornthwaite, C. (2002). Building social networks via computer
networks: Creating and sustaining distributed learning communities. In
K.A. Renninger & W. Shumar, Building Virtual Communities: Learning and
Change in Cyberspace (pp.159-190). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University
Another paper puts this in more theoretical terms, and references will
lead you to the research studies.
Haythornthwaite, C. (2002). Strong, weak and latent ties and the impact of
new media. The Information Society, 18(5), 385 - 401.
I will be interested in what else you find and come up with on this.
Caroline Haythornthwaite ([log in to unmask]) www.lis.uiuc.edu/~haythorn
Associate Professor phone: (217) 244-7453
Graduate School of Library and Information Science fax: (217) 244-3302
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
501 East Daniel St., Champaign, IL 61820
On Mon, 16 Feb 2004, David Teten wrote:
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> I write to request your insight on the balance that agents should strike
> between building strength with their strong ties, or building the number
> and strength of their relationship with weak ties.
> By way of background, I am working on a book on building quality
> business relationships online. I recently released my first book on the
> topic (details at <http://www.onlinebusinessnetworks.com/>
> http://www.onlinebusinessnetworks.com ).
> Our initial thoughts are:
> You can spend all of your time with your close friends, family and
> colleagues (strong ties, low number of people), or spread yourself thin
> across a wide number of people (high number of ties, on average low
> strength). But having strong ties with a large number of agents is not
> The average relationship strength and the number of people in your
> network are inversely proportional, so how do you optimize the value of
> your network? How can you find the proper balance between Strength and
> We think (but haven't found any research to support this) that the way
> to optimize the value of your network is to determine the necessary
> level of Strength required to accomplish your objectives, and then
> maximize Number at that level. For example, if you are selling
> investment banking or strategic consulting services, you need a high
> Strength level for someone to buy your services. These are big-ticket
> items which require a high level of trust in their provider. Your
> Number will likely be small. Ideally, you have a small Number of close
> relationships with senior executives in a position to buy these sort of
> If, on the other hand, you are trying to sell books, handcrafts, or
> food, your Strength can be much lower but your Number has to be much
> higher. Movie stars make their money by selling movie tickets and
> ancillary products, so they try to have ties with as many fans as
> possible. Spending an hour with just one fan is unnecessary and
> inefficient for them; they want weak ties. Similarly, a restaurant
> owner should build a large number of weak ties and encourage those weak
> ties to try her restaurant. Once they try it, the quality of the
> restaurant itself will probably drive any repeat business.
> I would value any ideas you may have. Thanks!
> David Teten
> Nitron Advisors, LLC ( <http://www.nitronadvisors.com/>
> www.NitronAdvisors.com )
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