“Familiar Strangers”

Supporting (and understanding) strong and weak ties is a fascinating part of the work that markets do to build food systems. This story expands into another area: “familiar strangers” or people that we see on a regular basis in our daily lives. Markets obviously figure into this type of research.
What I have learned from sociologists is that strong ties are those kinship relationships that you turn to for support. Weak ties offer support through their number and through the diversity of acquaintances that can offer advice and connections, and of course, that can grow into strong ties. This change happens in community settings like markets.
The public health sector is one that relies deeply on markets work with both and with familiar strangers. The word of mouth work to encourage citizens in low-income and adverse areas to begin market shopping is based on this science. Additionally, working to encourage families and children to market as well as the work with farmers is about understanding their networks and how to add to them. Studying these ties might also be potential funding opportunities for market networks. The more that we know about how people connect to each other, the better we run markets.

“Unlike other social networks, where people interact within a circle of friends and acquaintances, we show
an often-ignored type of social link: weak, passive and indirectly enabled by daily encounters. As a result of
deep-rooted individual behavior patterns, our results also present the collective regularity of people with their recurring encounters as evidence, explaining the familiar strangers” phenomenon in daily life.”

Now We Can Actually Count and Track the 'Familiar Strangers' in Our Lives – Eric Jaffe – The Atlantic Cities.


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