Homophily and Heterophily: What Fires Together, Wires Together (#CCK11)

Connectivism and Connected Knowledge 2011, Week 2, has ended. I listened to the facilitator’s session, the recorded version, and walked away with the feeling that we will be learning more and more about networks as the course progresses, from a number of different angles.

What I liked was Stephen’s clarification of how Grsshopper is an innovation that places control in the hands of the learner, from the learner’s own PLE, rather than having a central LMS.

By using the #CCK11, I’ve been able to share my blog posts with other course participants while at the same time, from the same PLE, keep up a steady pace of blogging about my life as an English teacher. I created nothing new for this purpose.

Grsshopper aggregates only what I designate with the #CCK11, everything else is outside of the aggregation parameters. Thusly, I am in agreement that this system is simpler than an LMS would be.

I concur, it leaves me, the learner, in control of my learning.

The final 20 minutes of the facilitator’s session revolved around the diagram below:

Patterns (slide shown during the facilitator's session: Credit: Stephen Downes and George Siemens)

In sum, both Stephen and George indicated that several factors are to be considered in analysing a network. To mention a few: strength of connections, directionality, centrality, proximity, fluidity of content (flow) etc. This was a general overview, and it can be assumed we will be going into depth as the course progresses.

Stephen discussed activation, or what it takes to “fire a node”. A good network was explained to be a network that has nodes with different states having different inputs at different times. The flow of content through the network has to be regulated.

What is the goal? A network should be neither too strong nor too weak, both of which have undesirable consequences.

Having twice analysed my own social networks prior to listening to the session, this information was easily digestible for me. Of course, again, it’s clear that we will be going deeper into network analysis.

Upon leaving, I checked the #CCK11 blog posts and stumbled into a great blog post, entitled, “Heterophily: Why you should follow people who you disagree with on Twitter”, by Oli Mould. Where I had used the terms of “resonance” and “non-resonance” in my analysis of my social networks, Mould used the terms “homophily” and “heterophily”. Let me quote directly from the post, as you will see that the terms are being used to describe the same phenomenon:

(Quote) ” Essentially, weak ties are those ties ‘outside’ the core connections that any one actor has. Granovetter uses the example of acquaintances and friends, where the former are more structurally crucial to a network than the latter. In other words, if you operate solely within your group of ‘close-knit’ friends, then there is little or no expansion of that network and hence the proliferation of linear thought; a process known as homophily. Heterophily then is when networks are predicated on difference, or by exploration of ‘weaker’ ties to any given individual – a phenomenon which discourages linearity, and embraces rhizomatic thinking.” (End of quote)

After reading this, I left a comment for Mould on his blog. I felt sure he would enjoy my awkward attempt to say what he had managed to say so elegantly…

During Week 2, we were not able to enjoy Valdis Krebs, a social network analyst expert. Luckily, I found a short video of him discussing social networks on Twitter. This follows up Oli Mould’s blog post quite nicely.

Week 3 of #CCK11 will mark my first time “sitting in” on a live session. I must admit I’m looking forward to the experience. I don’t know if I will be active in the chat, the ongoing interaction between participants, on the one hand. On the other, I’ve noticed that both George and Stephen pay attention to what is being posted in the ongoing chat, and do indeed address the remarks that are made there.

We shall see how I manage this part of the course…

Best regards,

About profesorbaker

Thomas Baker is the Past-President of TESOL Chile (2010-2011). He enjoys writing about a wide variety of topics. The source and inspiration for his writing comes from his family.
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2 Responses to Homophily and Heterophily: What Fires Together, Wires Together (#CCK11)

  1. Pingback: #CCK11 Week 2 « eConnections

  2. Comment by Oli Mould, at his blog:


    Oli said on Heterophily: Why you should follow people who you disagree with on Twitter – January 30, 2011 at 7:06 pm

    In response to profesorbaker on January 30, 2011 at 4:18 am:

    (Thomas – comment on Oli’s blog)

    Hi Oli,

    This is a very informative post, and I enjoyed reading it. I am struck by how closely it relates to a post I recently wrote, in which I analyse (for the second time) my social networked behaviour, contrasting my Facebook network with my Linkedin network. Had I read your post here beforehand, I […]

    (Oli – Response on his blog)

    Hi Professor Baker,

    I enjoyed your comment and your post – it is indeed a “resonant” topic! It always fascinates me the way in which there are different articulations of the same topics and I guess this is no different.

    The terms “homophily” and “heterophiliy” imply a more biological mechanistic quality I suppose, whereas resonant and non-resonant is perhaps more humanistic. Either way, your example of kids in the playground rings true. And I think that the more diverse a network is the more potential there is for better results (although we have to acknowledge that it can sometimes lead to chaos and even conflict).

    You will see from my blog that my interest is in cities, and the heterophilic tendency of urban neighbourhood networks is something that I am looking to explore more in the future.

    Thanks again for your link to a very thought-provoking post and I look forward to reading more of them in the future!


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