From the “Small World Experiment” to the “Red Balloon Challenge,” and beyond
We live in a small world, right? But the cost and fragility of navigating it could harm any potential strategy to leverage the power of social networks. Read this fascinating story of the research, experiments, and failures in the quest for using social networks to search information/people:
[Excerpt of the article] Our ability to search social networks for people and information is fundamental to our success. We use our personal connections to look for new job opportunities, to seek advice about what products to buy, to match with romantic partners, to find a good physician, to identify business partners, and so on.
Despite living in a world populated by seven billion people, we are able to navigate our contacts efficiently, only needing a handful of personal introductions before finding the answer to our question, or the person we are seeking. How does this come to be? In folk culture, the answer to this question is that we live in a “small world.” The catch-phrase was coined in 1929 by the visionary author Frigyes Karinthy in his Chain-Links essay, where these ideas are put forward for the first time.