Tuesday, January 20, 2004

The Republicans are Going to Loose, Because the Democrats All are Going to Read These Two Abstracts:

I am going to resist the temptation to  blog about the two Topics of the Day: the Iowa Primary, and the State of the Union Address.  Like Howard Dean, I am going to get right down to the business of rallying the troops; or rather, how to rally the troops, in a rather abstract fashion.  The first paper discusses the dynamics in a group enterprise, wherein each individual has the option of cooperating, defecting (cheating), or striking off on his/her own.  The authors claim to have found a way to increase the amount of cooperation, albeit via artificial means.  If the social milieu is constructed such that it appears that most of the participants are loners, the number of cooperators will increase.  The second paper describes a very different way of looking at groups.  Rather that looking at characteristics of individuals, the author examines the characteristics of the relationship between pairs (dyads) of indivduals.  Both are valid ways of modeling group interactions; which model is "correct" depends upon what you are trying to do with the model.  (Thus correctness is relative to purpose.)

In order to develop an effective political organization, you first have to decide, what is the purpose of the organization?  By definition, a political organization serves a political purpose.  If you accept that the purpose of politics is to try to get a group of people to do what you want them to do, Then the purpose of a political organization is to create a small group of people with a mutual intent of influencing a larger group of people.  It is my hope that an understanding of these concepts can help a leader or group member operate a group more effectively .

Volunteering leads to rock-paper-scissors dynamics in a public goods game

Nature 425, 390 - 393 (25 September 2003); doi:10.1038/nature01986
Department of Evolutionary Ecology, Max Planck Institute of Limnology, 24306 Plön, Germany

Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to M.M. (milinski@mpil-ploen.mpg.de).

Collective efforts are a trademark of both insect and human societies. They are achieved through relatedness in the former and unknown mechanisms in the latter. The problem of achieving cooperation among non-kin has been described as the 'tragedy of the commons', prophesying the inescapable collapse of many human enterprises. In public goods experiments, initial cooperation usually drops quickly to almost zero. It can be maintained by the opportunity to punish defectors or the need to maintain good reputation. Both schemes require that defectors are identified. Theorists propose that a simple but effective mechanism operates under full anonymity. With optional participation in the public goods game, 'loners' (players who do not join the group), defectors and cooperators will coexist through rock–paper–scissors dynamics. Here we show experimentally that volunteering generates these dynamics in public goods games and that manipulating initial conditions can produce each predicted direction. If, by manipulating displayed decisions, it is pretended that defectors have the highest frequency, loners soon become most frequent, as do cooperators after loners and defectors after cooperators. On average, cooperation is perpetuated at a substantial level.

© 2003 Nature Publishing Group

The Strength of Weak Ties

Mark S. Granovetter
American Journal of Sociology, 78 (6): 1360-1380
Johns Hopkins University

Analysis of social networks is suggested as a tool for linking micro and macro levels of sociological theory. The procedure is illustrated by elaboration of the macro implications of one aspect of small-scale interaction: the strength of dyadic ties. It is argued that the degree of overlap of two individuals' friendship networks varies directly with the strength of their tie to one another. The impact of this principle on diffusion of influence and information, mobility oppor­tunity, and community organization is explored. Stress is laid on the cohesive power of weak ties. Most network models deal, implicitly, with strong ties, thus confining their applicability to small, well-­defined groups. Emphasis on weak ties lends itself to discussion of relations between groups and to analysis of segments of social struc­ture not easily defined in terms of primary groups.

I propose the notion that the most effective way to get a group to operate, is to create a three-way balance between cooperation, dissension, and isolation; with cooperation predominating over the other two.  The most successful leader will be the one who most effectively promotes the ideal balance.  I propose further that in order for the dynamics described in the first article to work, there has to be some kind of intermingling, such that everyone has some idea of what the others are up to.  That is the point of the second article.  An effective leader will have the ability to identify dyads with strong and with weak ties, and direct them to serve the appropriate functions.  This is counterintuitive, since at first glance, it would seem that the ideal leadership style would be to try to forge strong ties among everyone.  The second article implies that it is better to let people form into groups, each generating its own ideas; and at the same time, have individuals who have relatively loose affiliations serve as go-betweens.