In a time when Facebook users can be thought of as citizens of the third-largest country in the world and political revolutions are driven by 140-character “tweets,” the role of social networks and social media have become issues of vital importance.
What do these changes in how people relate to one another say about human culture? How different are these new social networks from the ones that have sustained human civilization since the dawn of history?
Best-selling author, Guggenheim Fellowship recipient and one of Foreign Policy magazine’s “Top 100 Global Thinkers,” Dr. James Fowler considered these questions and more as the keynote speaker at the sixth annual Emerson-Wier Liberal Arts Symposium on March 14.
Fowler is a professor of medical genetics and political science at the University of California, San Diego and co-authored Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives.
In Connected, Fowler and his collaborator, Dr. Nicholas Christakis, explore research from numerous disciplines to deliver answers to questions like “Do your friends make you fat?,” “How do your neighbors affect your mood?” and “Why do the rich get richer?”
Fowler’s presentation was an engaging and information-rich conversation about how our social networks, both online and off, are surprisingly accurate predictors of a wide-variety of behaviors.
Though his data illuminated the many ways that behavior is altered by seemingly invisible forces, his take-away message for attendees was one of hope that even a change in a single person’s behavior can affect untold others.
Fowler also participated in a panel discussion earlier in the day about social networks and media.
USAO’s Emerson-Wier Liberal Arts Symposium series is sponsored annually by the USAO Foundation and was inspired by endowment funds created by Oklahoma College for Women alumni Gladys Anderson Emerson and Nance Foules Wier.