The broader mapping project (first identified by Dmitri Williams) has an new entry in the social networks field. The mapping project is a (unorganized) effort to find out where real-world behaviors map onto virtual worlds and where they don't. The Law of Demand maps; human response to deadly plagues does so only in part.
A new paper from Michigan and Santa Fe (Bakshy, Karrer, Adamic) (thanks Mark Bell for the tip) reports on social network adoption effects in Second Life. "Adoption rates quicken as the number of friends adopting increases and this effect varies with the connectivity of a particular user. We furtherfind that sharing among friends occurs more rapidly than sharing among strangers, but that content that diffuses primarily through social influence tends to have a more limited audience. Finally, we examine the role of individuals,finding that some play a more active role in distributing content than others, but that these influencers are distinct from the early adopters."
The authors don't explicitly associate these findings with mapping; that is, they don't ask or test "is this the same as we see in the real world?" But that conclusion seems fairly easy to make, in that the results don't seem (to me anyways, a person decidedly not expert in this field) all that amazing. In fact it all looks rather normal. That's a finding. The news is: Though virtual, it's pretty normal.
Bit by bit, the grid in Williams' paper is filling in. In many areas, the things we do offline are replicated well when we go online.
Apology: I am sure this is not the first social networks paper with this kind of finding. It's just the first one I noticed after coming to grips with Dmitri's mapping idea.