6 December 2011

Degrees of separation

It’s common enough to hear tell of six degrees of separation. Some people even know of Stanley Milgram’s Small world experiment, but it was also a topic of study by Mandelbrot (of fractals fame) and others. Recently I happened on two articles* which confirmed the thesis using the Facebook community as a very large study group. The finding was an average separation of 4.73 between individuals in geographically and age-determined groups, although I imagine the use of an online social tool at a relatively early stage of life may have influenced the results. I experienced several examples of the d-of-s thesis over this last weekend when I attended a Year 12 reunion in Adelaide (I won’t say which one – it’s not pretty).

First example. The reunion was in a pub near the old school. A band started up in the afternoon playing Stevie Wonder and the like for a large and enthusiastic audience. I’d noticed some particularly impressive bass warm-ups then effective, interesting and lengthy bass solos. The band was Zkye & the Guyz and the bassist was Damien Steele Scott. He had studied at the tertiary jazz school in Adelaide and was proud to have lived off his music since his studied, so no surprise that he played a mean bass. But not just that: he’d attended the same school as our reuniting group.

Second example. One of our crew spoke of a musical family and one of them had been playing that afternoon in a concert with the Norwood Symphony Orchestra. It’s a community orchestra and they were performing Beethoven’s violin concerto, Bellini and Coleridge-Taylor. So when we four musketeers, Val, John, Peter and I took off later for a coffee on The Parade, we could easily identify viola player Damien and cellist Elen at the local bar. Circles within circles.

Third and more disappointing example. I am not religious but I attended a Catholic (Jesuit) school and I respect tradition so I was disappointed to see a stained glass window that had been funded by the family of one of our reunionists had been sold to this pub by the Church. The original physical Church building that held these windows had been deconsecrated and the remains sold off, and this particular result, the relocation of these windows at a pub, was not well received by the family. There it was, behind the band, six stained glass windows with some very significant religious imagery and the names of memorialised families. And the pub’s name painted onto the glass. It seems disrespectful to me and was taken so by the relevant family.

The Facebook-Degrees of separation studies were by Ugander, Backstrom and others*. The band was Zkye & the Guyz comprising Zkye Compson-Harris (vocals), Damien Steele Scott (bass), Peter Grimwood (guitar) and Andrew Bignell (drums). The Norwood Symphony Orchestra performers were Damien Day (viola) and Elen Shute (cello). The reunionists were Eric, Peter, Rod, John, Ian, Chris, Mick, Michael, John and Val. The musketeers were Eric, Peter, Val and John.

*The Anatomy of the Facebook Social Graph / Johan Ugander, Brian Karrer, Lars Backstrom, Cameron Marlow, http://arxiv.org/abs/1111.4503 viewed 8 Dec 2011. Four Degrees of Separation / Lars Backstrom et al, http://arxiv.org/abs/1111.4570 viewed 8 Dec 2011.

1 comment:

ratso said...

...Good photos. Additionally, a great time was had by all...