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Metcalfe’s Law is Wrong

We eagerly fall over ourselves trying to advocate for networks. The internet. The web. Personal learning networks. Some have even suggested connectivism. Networks, as a concept, is so easy to comprehend that we use the term in advanced ways without paying much attention to what we mean. Or, more specifically, we often don’t consider the nature of different types of networks. What are the attributes of learning networks? What influences network formation? How are network elements (in learning) different when we achieve deep understanding of a subject versus when we have only a shallow understanding? Judging from the focus of several recent editions of educational journals, it looks like educators are waking up to the importance of greater precision in the discussion of networks. Metcalfe’s Law is Wrong provides a critical exploration of one of the foundational aspects of network theory. Metcalfe’s Law states that the value of a network is related to the number of users. The article acknowledges the mathematical validity of Metcalfe’s law, but highlights a critical flaw: “the assignment of equal value to all connections or all groups.” All nodes are equal, but some are more equal than others.