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Sociology's Watts Analyzes Six Degrees of Separation Through Cyberspace

Columbia sociologist Duncan Watts

Columbia sociologist Duncan Watts and a team of researchers will apply a 21st century test to a 1960s theory, six degree of separation, which contends that all people in the United States are connected through a chain of no more than six people. Watts and his team are trying to determine if the six degrees theory applies worldwide and through e-mail. They hope to understand how social networks are structured and if parallels can be drawn between human social webs and engineered systems, such as distributed computer networks.

The New York Times' Dec. 20 Circuits section focused on Watts' work, which is supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation, Columbia's Strategic Initiatives Program of the Office of the Executive Vice Provost, Columbia's Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy (ISERP) and the Intel Corporation.

Columbia's Strategic Initiatives program seeks to identify and address 21st century societal needs through innovative interdisciplinary research. By fostering linkages among the physical sciences, social sciences and humanities, it strives to enhance the competitiveness of new research areas and ideas.

The Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy is the interdisciplinary research organization for the social sciences and public policy at Columbia. Established in 2001, ISERP uses a multi-disciplinary approach to develop pioneering basic social science as well as policy research for critical social problems.

Click here to read more about Watts and this project.

Published: Dec 20, 2001
Last modified: Sep 18, 2002

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