Jenny Mackness writes about her mother’s networks, pointing out that her mom doesn’t use computers. Jenny makes a good point. There were networks before we all had computers. I do think that the availability of computers, TCP/IP, etc. has changed our networks permanently. Looking at Jenny’s mom, it seems to me that the strong ties and week ties are defined mostly by geographical distance. Those in her church whom she sees regularly as opposed to those she sees once a year at a golf event in England. Thanks to telephones, which I imagine Jenny’s mom uses, it’s not quite that neat and clean, of course.
Contrast that to the present day. I’ll look at two subsets of my network, people I know through this course, and people I spend time with in Second Life. None of the people who I’d characterize as my moderate-strong ties (say those I communicate with more often than once a fortnight) from these subgroups is physically within 250 miles of me. In a pre-computer world, these people would have been weak ties (Christmas card list) at best. Technology allows me to have regular “conversations”with them.
Particularly for specialized networks of interest (something like Tolkienien linguistics) for example, the members are geographically dispersed and there are likely not enough of them in one geographic area to foster regular connections. Computers, etc. allow the coalescence of this set of persons in a way that probably wouldn’t have happened 50 years ago.