Experiment to gauge towns’ social connections

Bobbi Murray, Kay Robertson and Bob Baldie pass the parcel. 'Copyright Andy Thompson Photography / ATIMAGES
Bobbi Murray, Kay Robertson and Bob Baldie pass the parcel. 'Copyright Andy Thompson Photography / ATIMAGES

Voluntary Action Angus is gearing up to replicate a now famous social experiment to answer the question of “How connected are we?”

The experiments will take place in Kirriemuir and Brechin during August and will follow the concept of six degrees of separation, which originated from Stanley Milgram’s ‘small world experiment’ in 1967 that tracked chains of acquaintances in the United States.

In the experiment, Milgram sent several packages to 160 random people in Nebraska, asking them to forward the package to a friend or acquaintance who they thought would bring the package closer to a set final individual, a stockbroker from Massachusetts. Chains varied in length from two to 10 intermediate acquaintances, with a median of five intermediate acquaintances - six degrees of separation - between the original sender and the destination recipient.

The point of VAA’s experiment, however, is to map social connections in the Kirriemur and Brechin areas and to debunk perceptions that communities are disconnected. It ties in with civic health projects that will be starting soon in both towns.

Six parcels will be posted to a random selection of people on August 15 and all anyone who receives one has to do is give it to someone they know by first name and who they think may be closer to the person the parcel is intended for. The only other request is that VAA is kept informed, via a pre-paid addressed postcard, of who the parcels have been passed on to so they can track their journey.

Rachel Green, social policy manager, said: “My experience working across Angus means that I don’t believe that we are in crisis. What I do believe is that we need to work with communities recognising their complexity, dynamism and creativity and especially their ability to solve problems.

“We want to use the results of the experiment to bring people together, to show how they are connected in ways they may not know”.

Kay Robertson, youth development worker, is also challenging young people on Facebook to work out how they are connected to their ‘mutual friends’ and how many connections there are between them. Further information is available from Rachel Green or Kay Robertson on 01307 466113.