Hubs and Spokes in a Connected Age #wweopen2013

In reading Bonnie Stewart's blog post on "Learning to unlearn: Building networked identities in education" I was reminded of the concept of hubs and spokes in relationships. The idea that some people are hubs and others are spokes in the network of relationships. Hubs are people that bring people together and connect other people, spokes are connected together by the hubs in their lives (sorry, I couldn't find a good reference for this). In the face-to-face world, I identify as a hub. I'm the person in the group most likely to schedule events that bring poeple together. I'm the one most likely to reach out and ensure that there are real touch-points in my connections – I actively foster relationships.

However, in the online world, I struggle with how to be hub. In some ways, I think this blog is an attempt for me to be a hub – a way in which to help bring a community together — or maybe, it is just that sometimes I like the sound of my own voice ;-). I do find that MOOCs provide an opportunity for hubs to get out there and help find spokes in which include in the wheels that are our online identities. 

I haven't found many other hubs out there in the cyber world – so the way in which digital relationships occur is somewhat different – more magnetic rather than hub-and-spoke, where fostering relationships (connections) has more to do with creating highly magnetic content that helps to draw people into your network, rather than through specific touch-points.

I don't know. Do either of these models work for you? Any advice on how to be a hub in the digital world?

2 responses

  1. Bonnie Stewart (@bonstewart) Avatar

    Glad the post got you thinking in this direction re. networked identities…I think I’ve come across the hub/spoke concept in different network theory explanations too.

    You raise a great point about the differences in the way we foster relationships online and off. I don’t think the relationships themselves end up inherently different due to medium, but the actions that build the relationship(s) sometimes are: organizing activities as a way of acting as a hub only works so well online because interactions are asynchronous, and so there’s much more of an element of happenstance.

    I do think sharing other people’s work widely and contributing to it (as you’ve done with mine, here, contributing your post as a response to mine) is one of the key ways of building the ties that make you visible enough to others that you begin to develop hub/spoke relationships.

    One key point to make, I think, is that networks are always intersecting and multiple. An individual (or “node,” in a network) might be a hub of one network (say, the person around whom a bookclub coheres) while a spoke or a lurker in others. So this blog can be a hub around which you host conversations that matter to you, while on others’ blogs, you can be a spoke contributing your piece but not necessarily at the centre. Or I might be a spoke in your edtech network and you might be a spoke in mine. You know what I mean? Less an essential either/or identity than a fluid thing.

  2. Rebecca Avatar

    Your post got me thinking of hubs-and-spokes as a metaphor for personal relationships and this is somewhat different (or perhaps the skills are different) in the digital world –

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