Hilbert, M. (2017). The More You Know, the More You Can Grow: An Information Theoretic Approach to Growth in the Information Age. Entropy, 19(2), 82. (Full Article) ABSTRACT In our information age, information alone has become a driver of social growth. Information is the fuel of “big data” companies, and the decision-making compass of policy makers. Can we quantify how much information leads to how much social growth potential? Information theory is used to show that information (in bits) is effectively a quantifiable ingredient of growth. The article presents a single equation that allows both to describe hands-off natural selection of evolving populations and to optimize population fitness in uncertain environments through intervention. The setup analyzes the communication channel between the growing population and its uncertain environment. The role of information in population growth can be thought of as the optimization of information flow over this (more or less) noisy channel. Optimized growth implies that the population absorbs all communicated environmental structure during evolutionary updating (measured by their mutual information). This is achieved by endogenously adjusting the population structure to the exogenous environmental pattern (through bet-hedging/portfolio management). The setup can be applied to decompose the growth of any discrete population in stationary, stochastic environments (economic, cultural, or biological). Two empirical examples from the information economy reveal inherent trade-offs among the involved information quantities during growth optimization.
Gillings, M. R., Hilbert, M., & Kemp, D. J. (2016). Information in the Biosphere: Biological and Digital Worlds. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 31(3), 180–189. (Journal Site / Full Article) ABSTRACT Evolution has transformed life through key innovations in information storage and replication, including RNA, DNA, multicellularity, and culture and language. We argue that the carbon-based biosphere has generated a cognitive system (humans) capable of creating technology that will result in a comparable evolutionary transition. Digital information has reached a similar magnitude to information in the biosphere. It increases exponentially, exhibits high-fidelity replication, evolves through differential fitness, is expressed through artificial intelligence (AI), and has facility for virtually limitless recombination. Like previous evolutionary transitions, the potential symbiosis between biological and digital information will reach a critical point where these codes could compete via natural selection. Alternatively, this fusion could create a higher-level superorganism employing a low-conflict division of labor in performing informational tasks.
Shen, C., & Chen, W. (2015). Social capital, coplaying patterns, and health disruptions: A survey of Massively Multiplayer Online Game participants in China. Computers in Human Behavior, 52(0), 243-249. (Full Article / Journal Site) ABSTRACT: We examined the relationship between social capital, coplaying patterns and health disruptions in a large sample of gamers in a popular Chinese Massively Multiplayer Online Game, Chevaliers’ Romance 3. Partnering with the game operator, we fielded an online survey (N = 18813) in 2011. Social capital was measured by (1) psychometric measures of bridging and bonding social capital, and (2) core discussion network size using name generators, as well as the number of strong and weak ties within the core network. Controlling for sociodemographic variables, we found that bonding social capital was associated with lower odds of frequent or occasional health disruptions, but bridging social capital did not have any effect. Weak ties in the core network were associated with greater odds of health disruptions. Coplaying patterns also mattered – people playing with friends first met through CR3 were less likely to have health disruptions, while playing with existing friends and families tended to have the opposite effect. Overall, social capital and coplaying patterns appear to have significant health implications for participants in online games.
Barnett, G. A., & Benefield, G. A. (2015). Predicting international Facebook ties through cultural homophily and other factors. New Media & Society, 1461444815604421. (Journal Site) ABSTRACT: This study describes the structure of the international Facebook friendship network and its determinants using various predictors, including physical proximity, cultural homophily, and communication. Network analysis resulted in one group of nations, with countries that bridge geographic and linguistic clusters (France, Spain, United Kingdom, and United Arab Emirates) being the most central. Countries with international Facebook friendship ties tended to share borders, language, civilization, and migration. Physical distance, shared hyperlinks, use of common websites, telephone traffic, cultural similarity, and international student exchange were either weakly or not significantly related to international Facebook friendships.
Hilbert, M., Vásquez, J., Halpern, D., Valenzuela, S., & Arriagada, E. (2016). One-step, two-step, network-step? Complementary perspectives on communication flows in Twittered citizen protests. Social Science Computer Review. ABSTRACT: The article analyzes the nature of communication flows during social conflicts via the digital platform Twitter. We gathered over 150,000 Tweets from citizen protests for nine environmental social movements in Chile, and use a mixed-methods approach to show that longstanding paradigms for social mobilization and participation are neither replicated nor replaced, but reshaped. In digital platforms, long standing communication theories, like the 1955 two-step flow model, are still valid, while direct one-step flows and more complex network flows are also present. For example, we show that it is no contradiction that participants mainly refer to intermediating amplifiers (39 % of the mentions from participants go through this two-step flow), while at the same time traditional media outlets and official protest voices receive 80-90 % of their mentions directly through a direct one-step flow from the same participants. While non-intuitive at first sight, Bayes’ theorem allows to detangle the different perspectives in the arising communication channel. We identify the strategic importance of a group of amplifying intermediaries in local positions of the networks, who coexist with specialized voices and professional media outlets at the center of the global network. We also show that direct personalized messages represent merely 20 % of the total communication. This shows that the fine-grained digital footprint from social media enable us to go beyond simplistic views of a single all-encompassing step-flow model for social communication. The resulting research agenda builds on longstanding theories with a new set of tools.
Shen, C. & Cage, C. (2015). Exodus to the Real World? Assessing the Impact of Offline Meetups on Community Participation and Social Capital. New Media & Society, 17(3), 394-414. (Full Article / Journal Site) ABSTRACT: Despite the increasing popularity of offline “meetups” among online community participants, little is known about their effect on the health and function of these communities. Using longitudinal network data of both public and private communications among participants of an online community for science fiction fans, this study represents one of the first systematic assessments of the impact of meetups on community participation and members’ bridging and bonding social capital. Results showed that meetups would enhance attendees’ bonding social capital, but that increase would come at the expense of bridging social capital, reducing the opportunity for new members to join and find acceptance in the community. The effect of meetup on community participation was mixed.
Barnett, G. A., Ruiz, J. B., & Park, H. W. (2015). Globalization or Decentralization of Hyperlinked Content among Websites: An Examination of Website Co-citations. In 2015 48th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (HICSS) (pp. 1779–1787). (Journal Site) ABSTRACT: Hyperlink network analysis has provided an important framework for understanding the structure of the Internet/WWW. However, the inclusion of other measures provides additional information about the structure of the web. This research presents still another approach to describe the structure of the Internet/WWW by assessing the network of websites' domains based on their co-citations with other websites. Results indicate that a group of websites from the United States is at the network's center. YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Google, Instagram, and Blogspot had the greatest degree centralities. Google was highest in betweenness centrality. A cluster analysis revealed three distinct groups of websites, American, Chinese and pornographic. Future research should assess content type and language's role in network structure.
Shen, C. & Chen, W. (2015). Gamers’ Confidants: Massively Multiplayer Online Game participation and core networks in China. Social Networks, 40, 207-214. (Full Article / Journal Site) ABSTRACT: Through a survey of more than 18,000 participants in a Chinese Massively Multiplayer Online Game (MMOG), this study examines how the size and diversity of Chinese gamers’ core networks vary by individuals’ sociodemographic, socioeconomic and game-related characteristics. It represents the first study focusing exclusively on the gamer population and one of the most recent examining personal networks in contemporary China, home to over 560 million Internet users. We found that Chinese gamers have notably larger and more diverse core networks than those of major studies. Coplaying patterns and attachment to the game community contributed significantly to network size and diversity.