The primary purpose of this study was to attempt to generate communication acquaintance networks in an urban community between randomly selected members of the population in two areas of the city which differed economically, socially, and ethnically, using the small world method. Previous research suggested the importance of interpersonal networks for the flow of information. In earlier studies, acquaintance networks had been generated across parts of the country, but no inquiry had been mode into communication acquaintance networks within an urban community. This study was designed to discover whether viable communication acquaintance networks existed with in one urban community across which information could easily flow.
Four target persons (two Chicanos and two Anglos) who resided in one chosen census tract of Albuquerque, New Mexico, were selected. For each of the four targets, a starting population of 60 people, 30 Anglos and 30 Chicanos, were randomly selected from another designated area of the city. The starters were given folders in which were enclosed the name, address, and other pertinent information about the target, and instructions to moil the folder on to on acquaintance who would be more likely than the starter to know the target. The folders passed from acquaintance to acquaintance until some folders reached the targets. Each link in he chains filled out and mailed in to the researcher a postcard with certain information about himself and the friend to whom he or she mailed the folder. From the postcards, data were collected to study the structure of the chains .
Four times as many Anglo as Chicano starters mailed the folders to a second person. Eighty-seven and one-haIf percent of the starters did not maiI the folders on at all. Three perceint of all the folders reached a target. More Anglo than Chicano targets were reached by chains started by both Anglos and Chicanos. Most of the folders went directly to the target's residential area, then occupational information was utilized to find the target.
It appears that unless the starters, the first links in the chains, are highly motivated, only a small percentage of them will choose to participate and begin the flow of information, and, hence, the creation of acquaintance networks. Asking for volunteers appears to he a doubtful way of soliciting starters who will begin chains. Once a folder passes the first link, the probability increases that it will be moved to other links. The small world theory was not clearly demonstrated by this study, but the potential of a small world phenomenon was suggested.
Level of Degree
Department of Communication and Journalism
First Committee Member (Chair)
Ralph Wayne Pace
Second Committee Member
Lawrence Bernard Rosenfeld
Third Committee Member
Dodd Harvey Bogart
Birdsall, Paige. "An Experimental Application Of The Small World Problem To An Urban Community." (1974). https://digitalrepository.unm.edu/cj_etds/137