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December 13, 2004
Interesting Research on Email Use and Patterns of Communication and Relationships By Leaders in the Community
Topic: 4) A Random Walk
While researching information on Internet traffic patterns, I ran across the following research by Dr. Alaina Kanfer, National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: "It's A Thin World: The Association Between Email Use and Patterns of Communication and Relationships". The survey and research included 424 community leaders whose communication patterns were tracked over a week each.

In her the closing section of her paper, Dr. Kanfer writes (I have added bracketed terms to ease casual reading):
"The statistics presented above portray a "thin world" -- one in which the communication networks of email users are geographically more spread out than those of non-email users and they include more work-related [unique communication contacts] and strangers but fewer [unique communication contacts]with whom they have personal communications. Email users also have fewer friends to provide strong emotional support, and communicate with fewer co-participants in organizations, which suggests a decreased involvement in volunteer and local community work. Moreover, email users have more communications, but spend no more time communicating with each of their [unique communication contacts], have more brief relationships and decreased percent of communication partners in their immediate family. While some of these differences disappear when age and education are controlled for, note that the email users are relatively young and educated acting as early adopters of new communication technologies in their personal as well as work lives. These early adopters may be setting the standards for general email use. Thus, email use in a thin world seems to facilitate communication patterns and distributions of [unique communication contacts] that are increasingly important in a competitive global economy."

I think that is it is important to note that Dr. Kanfer measures the closeness of relationships along several dimensions used in the organizational and social sciences (brackets added as before):
1) Average minutes of communication per [unique communication contact]
2) Average number of communications per [unique communication contact]
3) Average duration of relationship [with contacts of person]
4) Percent of [contacts] who live inside county[/nearby]
5) Percent of [contacts] with personal communications

Steve Shu
Managing Director
S4 Management Group

Posted by sshu-s4 (c) S4 Management Group LLC at 12:01 AM CST
Updated: December 13, 2004 7:20 AM CST
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