This small research contains a case study within our own Hyves-network. The first aim is to make an outline of the geographical spread of our friends and a selection of their friends. The second aim is to discover if there exists an interrelation between geographical distance and the way Hyves is used in making contact.

So the basis is our own network of friends out of Groningen. Within this network the friends who did not publish their place of residence were excluded, resulting in a total amount of 362 cases which were used. Because of the large amount of cases within each of our networks, the decision was made to randomly select three friends each and outline the geographical spread of their network as well. This was done by dividing the total amount of friends by three and select the concerning cases.
To collect data about the use of Hyves in relation to distance, a small survey was held within the Hyves network described above. Randomly twenty people in each of your own network were selected (80 in total) to answer the next question.

In which case do you use Hyves most frequently to make contact?

  • Friends within my place of residence
  • Friends within the province I live in
  • Friends within the rest of the Netherlands
  • Friends who live outside the Netherlands

The network of our Hyves friends is shown in figure 2. The yellow house, which represents the four of us living in Groningen, is the starting point for the geographical spread of our network. A single person in the figure represents a single friend living in that place. When a number is attached to a person in the figure, it represents the amount of more than one friend living in this place.


Figure 2: Geographical spread of our Hyves-network (Source: J. Buschenhenke)

The largest amount of friends - 177 out of 362 - are located in the city of Groningen. This means that 49 per cent of our Hyves friends live in our place of residence. A remarkable fact is the cluster of Hyves friends around our places of birth/former places of residence (Emmen, Enschede, Gouda and Zuidhorn). For a large extent, the remaining friends are clustered around large cities which are mostly capital cities of provinces and Amsterdam. It is not surprising that the geographical spread of our network is like this, taking into account that the chance of making and keeping in contact with other people is more apparent in the place where you reside.

The following two figures show the outcomes of the geographical spread of our friends’ friends. To clarify the spread the decision was made to make two maps; one of friends’ friends who live in Groningen and another map with friends’ friends who live outside Groningen. Six out of twelve people who were randomly picked, live in Groningen. The choice to combine these six friends was made because the concern is about where the geographical spread originates and not about individual cases. The spread of the first network can be seen in figure 3.


Figure 3: Networks of the six friends who live in Groningen (Source: J. Buschenhenke)

The six friends in total have 283 friends – out of 527 - who live in Groningen. This means that 54 per cent of their friends live in their own place of residence. The networks are mostly clustered in and closely around Groningen. Besides that, Amsterdam, Utrecht and Zwolle show a gathering of cases. The remaining part of the cases outside Groningen is spread all over the country.

Figure 4 shows the way the networks of the remaining six friends who live outside Groningen are spread. In total 88 out of 615 cases are located in Groningen, which is a percentage of fourteen. In all cases the spread is mostly concentrated in and around the place of residence. This can be explained because five out of six friends live in relatively large places (Amsterdam, Nijmegen, Enschede, Emmen, Deventer). Only one friend lives in a smaller place (Vreeland) and this is reflected in his network; most friends live outside his place of residence, although they still live nearby.The rest of the cases are clustered around other relatively large places, as well as nearby as in the rest of the country. The remaining spread in a network is characterized by a small number of cases through the whole country.
It is interesting to notice that even though our Hyves-network is spread widely, the connection with Groningen is still very present. This is shown by the fact that Groningen is the second city with most cases within four out of six friends. A possible explanation for this could be that these friends once lived in Groningen.


Figure 4: Network of the six friends who do not live in Groningen (Source: J. Buschenhenke)

The best way to get a good image of the geographical spread of the three different networks described above is by:

1. downloading Google Earth http://earth.google.com/

2. and to open the next file in Google Earth afterwards download map

This file offers the possibility to select each network separately, the possibility to zoom in and out and more.

The second aim of this case study is to discover the way Hyves is used by its members. The results of the small survey which was held, as mentioned above, are displayed in figure 5.


Figure 5
: Results of the small survey (Source: W. Horrevorts)

The first remarkable fact which becomes clear out of the figure is that the fourth possibility for the answer (friends who live outside the Netherlands) is not displayed in the diagram. This means that this answer is not given by any of the 80 respondents. This can validate the data of Hyves which states that most of the users live in the Netherlands itself.
The two largest components in the diagram are the ‘friends within my place of residence’ and the ‘friends within the rest of the Netherlands’. There is almost no difference in size between the two. One possible explanation for the ‘friends within my place of residence’ component is the size of these places where the respondents live in. There is a possibility that the respondents who have given this answer, live in a relatively large place. The chance of meeting people is more present compared to people who live in smaller places. Besides that, the biggest target group of Hyves are people from thirteen to thirty-four years, including students who go to higher educations and universities in, mostly, relatively larger places.
As a possible consequence, the other big component – ‘friends within the rest of the Netherlands’ – could contain the respondents from relatively smaller places who have a small number of contacts in their place of residence, simply because there are less people living in these places. The chance of having more contacts throughout the rest of the country is in that case more reasonable.
An explanation for the remaining component – ‘friends within the province I live in’ – could be given when looking at the local spread of friends. As is also displayed in figure 2 and 3, many friends are clustered in the place of residence and around. This is also the case for the respondents who have answered the third possibility. The size of these places is less important, because friends are spread around it.

In this case study, there are no remarkable differences in the way Hyves is used to contact people who live close by or who live far away.

The fact that people use Hyves to make contact with people nearby may indicate that the development of a virtual way of making contact is becoming more common instead of making a phone call or even face to face contact. In this context, places are becoming more distant in terms of their ability to reach each other electronically. On the other hand, a simplistic way of making contact may also stimulate people to contact other people, and face to face contact may follow afterwards. As this case study is not about researching for what kind of contact Hyves is used, there can be no conclusions made about this.
The fact that people use Hyves to contact people throughout the whole country is supporting the idea of global connectedness; places that are distant in kilometres are becoming more close together, even tough a virtual way of contact is used. A virtual world moderates contacting people who live far away. As boyd (2004) said earlier; “Bridging social capital might be increased by social network sites, because they enable users to create and maintain lager, diffuse networks” (p. 437). But again, within this research nothing can be said about the content of this contact.