Identity and Social Networks

I’ve always thought of identity and social networks as being separate things. So, when I read Robert Gaal’s proposal for a web profile, I was surprised to see that it includes information about contacts/friends/familiars.

I know that I’m not alone in making the separation. I was talking at a conference with a Chinese sociologist (Jar-Der Luo of Tsinghua University). He said, without explicit prompting or questioning from me, that the distinction between people and their networks is hardly universal, and indeed seems rather western.

I was recently dipping back in to Ming-Jer Chen’s fine book, Inside Chinese Business, where I found the following food for thought.

Whereas in the West a successful businessperson is spoken of as “wealthy,” in the Chinese context he or she is described as “well connected.”

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