Mostly a spectator

Hello biofabbers, I just left a post on one of your threads and realized I had not introduced myself. My name is Alberto, I am originally from Italy but based in Brussels now. I hang out mostly in a different room of the same condominium that biofabbers is in,

I am no biohacker myself, but I have a lot of respect for what you guys do, and hope to pick up some basic knowledge by hanging around smart people – mostly @winnieponcelet for now. I do try to dream up projects that could involve biohackers and people like me (I am a network science guy). Let’s see if that comes together. :slight_smile:

Hey @alberto, it’s not a big step towards growing some stuff at home :wink: growing edible mushrooms or kombucha leather are a “family friendly” way to get involved with bio. Manuals for those are not on here right now, but I hope some will be after the Wikithon we’re hosting on March 24th.

A wikithon is a great idea. It is also a great way to involve newbies: it is a lot easier to document something when you have experienced people in the room you can ask, than to do the same thing. And it is useful work.

I tried to get the same idea going in the early 2010s in the open data community – we called them Documentathons.

Benvenutto Alberto! I’m also new here and curious about any bio matter. I’m also an IT guy and curious about network, as it seems we have a lot to learn on the nature, how by instance the mushrooms evolve and decide to cut some leafs when no more resources, or to extend when they see there are plenty! Fascinating!

Hi @alberto!

@winnieponcelet told me briefly about the research you’re doing. It seems so interesting and I’d be curious to hear more about it!

Nice to meet you, @oliiive, and nice to see you again, @Elise!

When you mention “my research” do you mean the project we are hoping to get going with the biohacking community? Or my work in general?

I was thinking in general, but I’m also curious to know more about the biohacking community :wink:

Well, thanks, I am a network scientist. While networks are mathematical objects that you can use to model all sorts of things, I am interested in using them to model social dynamics. For example, this is a small model I made to simulate exclusionary dynamics in an online community:

The idea is that a community can be exclusionary even if the people in it are not. In the model, exclusion happens when newcomers find it hard to find a foothold, and most leave the community to the old timers. By setting the intimacy-strength parameter in the model sufficiently high (try a value like 10) you can produce exclusion, even if the community members have no will to exclude, but a simply a preference to interact with people they already know, including newcomers. So, exclusion in the model is an emergent property of interaction, and cannot be traced to individual behavior.

This sort of thing.

Online communities are “toy societies”, very simple to study. I hope to be looking into more textured urban dynamics at some point.

Good analysis. And I agree that online community with difficult software is naturally exclusionary. But software that is easy to learn but lacks sophistication is also exclusionary in a way because one can leave after realizing that the software will not do the things you want it to do. And I also agree that when a community is loaded with people who are completely comfortable with the hard-to-learn but usually more powerful software, that group resists change even if it means there would be more new people coming in. My theory on that is because they have likely already fulfilled the social needs that drove then to learn the system in the first place and lack motivation to change even if that improves things. I saw this at the WELL and became so frustrated by it that I chose to leave the job to try to pursue creating something that served beginners and veterans of the system.

Well, my model is not about any real online community. It is an abstract model; it is about a cartoon version of an online community, where no particular assumption about the software is made. This is the same thing as saying: the software works flawlessly, everyone understands it perfectly, there is no friction. The exclusion results from three assumptions:

  1. People interact with other people at random, but they have a preference for people they are already “friends” with.
  • “Friendship” is bottled interaction. If you interact with me, we become a little bit closer in the future of this interaction then we were in the past.
  • The community grows over time, with people joining it.

For certain values of the parameters, this produces a lock-in. People talk with their friends, so they talk less with people who are not already their friends, so it is hard to make new friends. This is what happens at the individual level. At the community level, new friendships are formed quite easily in the early days of the community, when there are not many people to talk to. As more people come in, the newcomers find it harder and harder to gain a foothold. The community end up being dominated by the early entrants, forever.

I basically agree with your analysis, based on what I have seen in practice. However, sometimes a new person comes in who is just so interesting and engaging that the pattern gets broken. Not often, but I have seen this happen too. Nevertheless, your model is generally true by my experience.

My model (like all models) has randomness in it, so even in the model occasionally someone breaks through. You can interpret randomness as “everything that is not captured by the model”. The model does not posit that some people are more interesting than others, so the randomness can represent this variability.