Old Malcolm Gladwell article about SmallWorld. Recently, a computer scientist at the University of Virginia by the name of Brett Tjaden actually sat down and figured out what the average degree of connectedness is for the quarter million or so actors and actresses listed in the Internet Movie Database: he came up with 2.8312 steps. That sounds impressive, except that Tjaden then went back and performed an even more heroic calculation, figuring out what the average degree of connectedness was for everyone in the database. Kevin Bacon, it turns out, ranks only six hundred and sixty-eighth. Martin Sheen, by contrast, can be connected, on average, to every other actor, in 2.63681 steps, which puts him almost six hundred and fifty places higher than Bacon. Elliott Gould can be connected even more quickly, in 2.63601. Among the top fifteen are people like Robert Mitchum, Gene Hackman, Donald Sutherland, Rod Steiger, ShelleyWinters, and Burgess Meredith. Aside from Bacon's low ranking, what surprises me is how low the difference is between the top and the average.
There's an interesting section on Mark Granovetter's research on "the strength of Weak Ties". Weak ties tend to be more important than strong ties. Your friends, after all, occupy the same world that you do (Monoculture)... How much, then, do they know that you don't know? Mere acquaintances, on the other hand, are much more likely to know something that you don't.
That article also pointed to Gallery 37 , an interesting example of Stimulating Learning Projects. In 1999, more than 4,000 youth participated in Gallery 37 programs throughout the City of Chicago. This unique job training program allows young people, ages 14-21, to earn a paycheck while creating visual, literary and performing art (Arts And Crafts) under the direction of professional artists. Too bad there isn't a replication of that in NYC.