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Social Networks: Fisheries, Software Code, and Muscles

Written by: Bill Sherman on Thursday, 7 August 2008, 6:00 AM

Are social networks like a fishery, software code, or muscles?

It’s a complex question that vexes many people who examine about social networks and social capital. In order to even frame the question, we need to dive into explore economic theory.

Economists, political scientists, and sociologists have generally agreed that social capital exposes an interesting area of discussion, but it’s been surprisingly difficult to create an operational definition. I’ve used “the ability to locate and mobilize resources” but that’s just one of many definitions.

I’m going to explore of social capital through three metaphors:

  • A fishery
  • Software code
  • Muscles

Warning: this exploration doesn’t lead to a neatly-packaged answer. So pack a set of boots and grab your walking stick, we’re off on an adventure!

First up, social networks as a fishery.

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