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August 16, 2004

Social Origin of Good Ideas

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Posted by Clay Shirky

Ronald Burt, who created the ‘social holes’ network measure (find out where the connections between groups aren’t, and look for value in bridging, roughly), wrote a paper last year on the Social Origin of Good Ideas (PDF):

A theme in the above work is that information, beliefs and behaviors are more homogenous within than between groups. People focus on activities inside their own group, which creates holes in the information flow of information across structural holes. People with contacts in separate groups broker the flow of information across structural holes. Brokerage is social capital in that brokers have a competitive advantage in creating value with projects that integrate otherwise separate ways of thinking or behaving.

Much of the paper is focused on sturcutral holes in business settings, arguing that brokers create much fo the value we associate with innovation.

On a related note, here’s a presentation danah co-wrote on social holes in email. The animation of the visualization, referenced in the presentation, is here

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