14 May 2006

Circle of friends

Returned from an industry conference in Perth: a nice one, thoroughly enjoyable, if somewhat tiring.

Found a Scientific American Mind Vo. 17 No. 2 on the magazine rack while at the Perth airport. There's a nice article on social circles as elaborated by psychologist Robin Dunbar. He postulates that social circles are hierarchial structures in the shape of concentric rings. In the inner ring is a hoop of three or four, or at most five people, whom we feel our greatest emotional connection to. This is the 'support group'. The next circle holds between 12-20 people with whom we maintain a caring mutual interest relationship. The subsequent level of 30-50 is looser still: these are people we have regular, if only occassional contact. Each circle's number of individual increases by approximately a factor of three. This can be seen in the arrangement of battle units in many countries. The smallest unit consists of 10-15 people, a platoon of 35 and a company of 120-150.

Did you, as you read the above paragraph, already started to populate your own social circle map with names?

A google (is your friend) reveals this article (quoting Dunbar) on the value of gossip. The arguments seems very logical, very scientific method even. Scary. Another nice article on gossip here.

I wonder what this says about the new media of blogs, podcasts, moblogs et. al. The new media at our disposal allows us to talk to potentially many people at once, yet time and again research as shown that new media's subscription is still rather niche. For example, many personal blogs have very small but dedicated readership, often comprising of a social grouping no larger than the second social circle. Are blogs the next incarnation of the quilting circle?

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