In his well cited and influential paper “The Strength of Weak Ties”, Marc Granovetter describes the power of connections that are not close by, frequent or intense. It appeared that finding a job for example was more likely to happen when people were asking it to a far friend rather than to closeby family. Having a lot of acquaintances seems to have its benefits.
The Networking Conference 2016 (TNC16) in Prague will be the ultimate place to get to know new people, exchange ideas, gossip and learn new stuff. With all the interesting keynote speakers on stage, lightning talks and special interest groups one tends to underestimate the importance of the networking part of the conference.
Of course, the 2Tbps pan-European network with bandwidth on demand, testbed services and multi-domain VPN is something to be very proud of, but the network that eventually led to this network is even more fascinating.
We won’t be able to maintain friendships with all 50 million users in the GÉANT network however. Unfortunately, the cognitive capacity of our human brain can’t be extended via a simple SD card. Anthropologist Robin Dunbar figured out that on average we are able to maintain 150 stable social relationships. 150 backs that scratch back! The way in which our network is constructed is part and parcel of our biological inheritance. The size of our neocortex correlates to it.
That’s where Facebook, VKontakte, LinkedIn and Twitter come in handy. Although we might have thousands of friends and there is only a handful of them we can really rely on during an emotional crisis, keeping track of old friends has become a piece of cake. The internet has made it possible to service existing relationships as well as meet new individuals more efficiently and on a wider geographical scale.