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Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Sync, Democracy and Chats

Lately I read Sync: The Emerging Science of Spontaneous Order by Steven Strogatz. It is about the synchronization mechanisms both in organic and non-organic systems. It also describes the Kuramoto model, which explains perfectly well, why systems suddenly synchronize, by bringing in the order parameter.

The effect is similar to the freezing of water. You have water for all the different temperatures between 0-100C, but suddenly, when you go below zero, it freezes. Similarly the the order parameter has to be in a certain range so that sync can happen.

Now I come back to syncing in chats. I believe that it is totally possible to prove that Kuramoto model works well in both, RL and internet chats and there is some pretty mathematical syncing going on in conversations. I did find also an academic paper by italian scientists that basically shows how opinion changing can be modeled with the help of Kuramoto model.

(Picture: Changing Opinions in a Changing World: A New Perspective in Sociophysics, ALESSANDRO PLUCHINO, VITO LATORA and ANDREA RAPISARDA, 2004)

They show mathematically that more communication increases sync, but they also show that even with good communication tools, in reality the society will remain synced in different groups, not in one single group.

(Picture: same source as previous)

It is important to notice that while sync is vital to the society, absolute social sync or having the same opinion was not found desirable by the scientists as they found that democracy is possible only in an intermediate or partial state of sync.

What interests me are the syncing processes inside these small pockets of society that seem perfectly synced, the small groups? How do they keep in sync? A Skype chat can be a good tool to model that, but I will write about this later.