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Britt, Purdue professor collaborate on 'Structural Differentiation in Social Media'

Brian Britt
Brian Britt

After nearly 10 years in the making, South Dakota State University Brian C. Britt has finished a book, “Structural Differentiation in Social Media,” in partnership with Purdue University Professor Sorin Adam Matei.

Britt, an assistant professor in SDSU’s Department of Journalism and Mass Communication, said the publication started when he was working as a graduate student at Purdue.

“I joined an existing team that was looking at collaboration on Wikipedia,” Britt said. “I presented a few new ideas and did some initial analyses for my master’s thesis. We greatly expanded on that work for my doctoral dissertation and completed a few related projects as well, working with a number of collaborators who joined the project in the meantime—statisticians and computer scientists at Purdue as well as other social scientists.”

Britt book

 “Over the last two years, we started to put the monograph together and synthesize it in a way that it would make sense not just for other academic researchers, but also for professionals in the field, because we want a wide audience to make use of it,” Britt said.

As Britt and Matei noted, all organizations, whether in an online or offline form, should be evolving.

“What we wanted to do was pinpoint some key attributes that would help people within an organization recognize when their group was undergoing a paradigm shift that would fundamentally change the way the organization would work and look for years to come,” Britt said. “In this volume, we provide the means to recognize revolutionary changes as well as the gradual, evolutionary drifts that often occur in organizations.”

They also discovered changes in leadership structure. Leaders in online groups tend to assume roles of their choosing, work in that role for a while and then move to another one, letting someone ascend into their old role. Those leaders, while temporary, are still central figures in the work, as the top 1 percent of contributors alone create nearly 80 percent of the content.

“Structural Differentiation in Social Media” was released Oct. 19.