Changing Currents in Education and Public Life
Edited by Lynn Book and David Phillips
Chapter 11: Overcoming obstacles to creativity in geographically fragmented environments: Lessons from smallworld networks
Small-world networks are based on the idea that most of us are connected by a relatively small number of mutual acquaintances. In 1967, Stanley Milgram demonstrated the concept in the Nebraska Study. His group mailed packages to 160 people in Omaha, Nebraska, with a letter that asked them to forward the package to an acquaintance, a stockbroker in Boston, Massachusetts, who they thought would bring it a step closer to the target. They were also asked to refrain from contacting the target directly unless they knew him. Following these rules, on average about six steps separated initial participants from the target. Milgram tested this concept; John Guare (1990) named it in his play Six Degrees of Separation; and it was popularized by a game linking other actors to the actor Kevin Bacon. Hungarian author Frigyes Karinthy may have first articulated the concept of a connected world in the short story ‘Láncszemek’ ([Chains] (1929), reviewed in Barabási, 2003). At its most basic, it is an idea that feels correct.
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