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Kanye Isn’t All He’s Cracked Up To Be


Kanye west is often considered one of the most highly visible and socially influential people of all time, but when considering his actual influence, he has none. The article “Hacking the system of social influence: How can we use the mechanics of influence to drive behavior for public good?” Discusses how our daily lives aren’t always influenced by the most “visible nodes” in our social network but rather are influenced through complicated trends and network interactions, that if understood can be used to do actual good in society.

In attempting to understand how individual nodes affect the networks they are a part of, companies like Google and Klout use page rank algorithms and social authority scores (based on the likeliness of followers, friends and fans of particular users to share updates across their respective networks). Facebook takes it one step further and attempts to identify the most influential nodes in respective social networks by also measuring the rate at which a piece of content is shared.

The problem that this article outlines with current methods of determining influence across social networks is that network visibility and prominence of a certain user or node doesn’t inherently represent influence in of itself. Or as stated in a quote from “MIT Professor Sinan Aral, “if Kanye West is “the quintessential influencer but no one does what he suggest, in what way is he influential?””

The author then goes on to discuss MIT Professor Sinan Aral’s alternative method to “look at how our peers directly affect how we behave ourselves.” In finding out how different types of nodes play different roles in influencing actual behavioral changes(as seen in the picture above), we can learn how to promote pro social behaviors, and discourage negative behaviors, making social trends not just two week video fads, but actual social movements that change society outside the holds of social networks.

This article, although outlining the idea of social influence and not specifically networks themselves, is very closely linked to what we have been discussing and reading in the first unit of our course. In graph theory we looked at bridges, central nodes, triadic closure and so much more. Specifically, in relation to the above, the article discusses how each of the different nodes and connections can be used to influence different types of behavior (identifying bridges between subnetworks when dealing with conflicts or elections, choosing centralized nodes when dealing with power plays, and dealing with periphery nodes when dealing with grassroots movements. The article also emphasizes how strong triadic closure, a property that we discussed in much depth can then be applied to not only starting social behavioral trends, but also making them boom beyond the holds of a smaller component in the network of the world. Finally, in regards to networks, this article brings into perspective how parts of a network can be analyzed not just in order determine whether or not it is balanced or complete, but how trends and behavior actually travel across networks, and the possibilities that accompany an actual understanding of how real life networks of influence work

NOTE: The article also relates to chapter 4 of our textbook and homophily, which although not discussed in class, is a very large component of networks, and trends and influences within a user’s social network.



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September 2015