Jeremy Hunsinger proposes a paper:
In this paper, i will argue why what many people argue are power law models of social networks on the internet are usually not really that at all…
I think Jeremy has something here. I have been a bit dubious about the overhyping of power laws in the blogosphere, and think that the focus may not be productive.
It’s important to note that certain simple measurements *do* conform to a power law. The problem is when this is then used to define a systematic teleology, as Shirky does in a later essay. His claim is that since blogs conform to a power rule, it is not true that the internet is more diverse than broadcast media.
He’s making the argument for a good reason, given the current direction of the FCC. But he goes further than “networked media do not necessitate distributive communication.” He even goes further than McChesney, who suggested that the internet was doomed to broadcast models if not controlled. He seems to imply that the broadcast model is somehow inevitable, and that, I think, is wrong.
I think, perhaps a bit along the lines of McChesney, that winner-take-all is (perhaps obviously) not inherent to the technology, and moreover is not inherent to the socio-technical system. If people actively made use of trackbacks, or if there was (as I believe there may soon be) a widely held epistemic break between the “journalist bloggers” and the “everyday bloggers,” I think it would be possible to have a sustaining equal, diverse, and free communication system.
(“But,” you say, “that’s just parcelling out the part of the blogosphere governed by the power law to remove it via definition.” Just so. But it is also true that it then only exists within a particular definition of what a blog is.)
Bey starts out the TAZ by suggesting that anarchy can never be sustained, someone always comes in and takes over. Shirky seems to be willing to say “thus it is and shall be.” Bey says “I believe that by extrapolating from past and future stories about ‘islands in the net’ we may collect evidence to suggest that a certain kind of ‘free enclave’ is not only possible in our time but also existent.”
If you look for power laws, you will find them. If you look for normal distributions, you will find them. Neither means that they exist in any sense other than the analytical shortcut that they provide. Where does your shortcut take you?