Category Archives: Networks

Mixed Methods Social Networks Research Design And Applications | Research methods in sociology and criminology | Cambridge University Press

Mixed Methods Social Networks Research Design And Applications | Research methods in sociology and criminology | Cambridge University Press.

 

Looks like the book I wish I had when I was doing my dissertation!

Out in July.  Looking forward to getting my hands on it.

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Filed under Books, Networks, Social Networks

Nodes and Notes (I’ve Died and Gone to Heaven)

So, a Senior, who took my “Six Degrees” foundation seminar many years ago is a dancer.  She tells me she is choreographing a piece that will link the idea of connectedness and thresholds into a dance piece in March.

Specifically, she wants to express the idea that the little things we do can spread and ripple out across the world, a world bound up by far-flung networks that still have short paths.  She didn’t quite say that, but that is where she was headed.  Like, not “just the six degree effect” she said.

I’ve died and gone to heaven.  This is the perfect intersection of my love for music and for netcentric thinking.

Of course, I immediately thought of the great John Guare play, Six Degrees of Separation.  (Yeah Wendy West for directing it back at Carleton!).

She is interested in spoken word OR music.  I started an RDIO playlist of ideas.  I’ll add more.
And of course, I’ll be sure to ask the good folks at SOCNET, still the lifeblood of much netcentric talk and thought.

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Filed under Bucknell, digital culture, economic sociology, Network Society, Networks

Primordial Ooze of Civil Society?

I always liked the phrase “primordial ooze.”  It is fun to say and the ten year old in me sees a bubbling, steaming goo that seems to defy order and good manners.  I also like it because it captures the idea of how the new emerges from the old, how complexity emerges from sets of interactions that are not supposed to add up to the emergent.

Two items from today made me wonder if we are looking at the primordial ooze of civil society.  Let me say here that by civil society I am not entering into some long-standing debate about what is or isn’t civil society.  I am looking for a term that covers the idea of collective or coordinated action of varying degrees of formality that is centered on common ground of like-minded actors.  Also, this common ground must unite people around some sense of a common good or higher purpose.  In short, human organizing motivated by “ruled” by practices that are not of formal state power nor purely economic rationality.  I am not sure if that holds up, but I’ll leave it there for now.

So, item #1.  Egypt, of course.  Like countless others, I am fascinated, hopeful, fearful, and awe struck by the events unfolding first in Tunisia and now more spectacularly in Egypt.  Through the media I have followed (Democracy Now, KCRW’s To The Point, NY time, Huffingtonpost, BBC, Guardian), there are several elements at work.  In no particular order.

* Youthful, technology-enabled activists.

* The Muslim Brotherhood

* Dissident elites (like El Baradei)

* Neighborhood watch patrols

Some of these groups seem loosely organized or rapidly scaling up and out as they absorb the tens or hundreds of thousands of newly mobilized citizens.  I imagine new organizing, new durable networks of trust and cooperation, and new alliances among the other two are a major part of the fluidity and flux.  This (to me) palpable sense of what could be captures the imagery of the primordial ooze of civil society.

Item #2: The Really Free School.  A random facebook message put me on to this (originating in theory.org.uk, home of theory trading cards).  I have not been able to explore it much, but what struck me is the basic ethos: let’s use a common space, the (Shirky-ean) low cost of coordinating, the ability of people to self-organize, and the cultural scripts of sharing knowledge and delighting in serious play.  Though not as fluid or important as Egypt, it also seems to me to get at the origins,at the primordial ooze,  of civil society in its simplicity and open-endedness.

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Filed under activism, Creativity, Hacker ethic, Information and Communication Technology, Networks, participatory technology, Protest, social innovation, sociology, technology

The Need for Social Science in Climate Change

A recurrent theme I find as I look out at the world and human affairs is that many problems are not wanting for technical or know-how fixes.  Moreover, large scale change or differences over time or place often seem to turn on small differences in application or implementation.  This is more than a generalized idea of tipping points.  More specifically, I mean that small scale points of interaction or articulation between components of human systems can matter.  This is especially true in the case of collective action problems.  I like to tell my students about how idiotic it seemed that at my kids’ school, no one ever pulled all the way up into the drop off zone effectively doubling the number of sets of cars that could pull up (since they would go to half way point and stop).  A crossing guard was even standing there.  A year later, new guard is in place who waves people forward.  Voila, problem solved.  My day starts with less fuming and cursing.

A recent article in Nature addresses the need to understand human systems, the stuff of social sciences (especially everything besides neo-classical economics since we have to deal with networks and aggregations of people.  Sorry about that.).  Ameliorating climate change is a massive collective action problem.  The article quotes a sociologist:

The answer, like the problem, has to be wide-ranging and global, says Jeffrey Broadbent of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, who also studies how societies affect their environments. “Its only solution lies in a level of global cooperation that humanity has never seen before.”

This wake-up call will hopefully spur more activity around looking at how networks of interaction, influence, and collective identity formation, sucha s between cities, regions, or countries, are the substrate on whcih policy takes place.  Understanding this, a crucial task, is the goal of the COMPCON project.  Boradbent at UMN is one of the sociologists involved.  They are currently collecting cases studeis and network data to look at what happens to fill the gap between know how and implementation for climate policy.  Let’s hope the answers come soon enough to keep Champagne production in France and not closer to Wales.

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Filed under climate change, Network Society, Networks, organization studies, Research, sociology

Resources on Internet and Politics

Participating in orgtheory.net thread I whipped up these resources which I thought ought to be useful here also.

Question:

How has the Internet changed political organizations? Is it just one tool in the service of traditional politics? Or is there a new politics associated with online life?

I agree that this is going to be a really important area of study in the future. In talking about how protests get organized with activists, it’s pretty clear that Facebook has turned into the medium of choice given its flexibility and relational scope. If nothing else Facebook helps cut down the coordination costs of collective action, but I suspect there’s an identity element to the story as well.

So why don’t we have very many studies about the impact of the internet on other sorts of organizational decision-making and/or organizing? Most of the studies that look at organizational life and the internet that I’ve seen tend to look at the counterproductive aspects of the internet (e.g., lost hours of productivity due to blog reading). What about the efficiency-enhancing aspects of online coordination? Anyone?

I feel like there is a lot that is at least descriptive or celebratory of lowering the coordination costs for civil society or political organizations.  You mean more rigorous, empirical research?  And do you mean campaign organizations (as oppose to governing or politically engaged?)

A few things I pulled off my shelf-
Mousepads, Shoe Leather, and Hope: Lessons for Dean Campaign for the Future of Internet Politics Techout, Zephyr and Streeter,Thomas. Has stories from campaign and some framing/theory chapters.

Society Online Edited by Howard, Philip and Jones, Steve. Has a chapter on voting and Internet in politics 1996-2000 (wow! Pre-history!).

Globalization from Below: Transnational Activists and Protest Networks della POrta, Donatella et al. Has a Chapter on Networks and Organizing.

Causewired By Watson, Tom. Whole book is rah-rah on wired activism. HAs chapter on politics (6, I think).

The Media in the Network Society: Browsing, NEws, Filters, and Citizenship Several chapters on politics, political systems, case studies of other countries (East Timor, Portugal e.g)

Is any of this on the mark?

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Filed under Books, Information and Communication Technology, Networks, organization theory, Politics, Power, Activism, Protest, Research, sociology

Chain letters explained…

nsf.gov – News – How Did That Chain Letter Get To My Inbox? – US National Science Foundation NSF
Everyone who has an e-mail account has probably received a forwarded chain letter promising good luck if the message is forwarded on to others–or terrible misfortune if it isnt. The sheer volume of forwarded messages such as chain letters, online petitions, jokes and other materials leads to a simple question–how do these messages reach so many people so quickly?

The NSF research by Jon Kleinberg (From Six Degrees book) and David Liben-Nowell (from Carleton!) has an interesting answer.  It seems that online petitions follow quite circuitous routes and do not spread virally (each recipient spawning new ones) at all.  Key nodes are critical making the whole process quite resistant to prediction and intervention.  Bad news for people selling you the Dummies Guide to Viral Marketing.

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Filed under activism, Marketing, Network Dynamics, Networks, Research

Blau Exchange: Charles Tilly Interview

This was a treat to find.  And reassuring as it is basically the trajectory I am trying to follow.

Blau Exchange: Charles Tilly Interview
Paul DiPerna:

If you have any advice for the next generation of scholars and researchers in the social sciences, what would you like to tell them?
Charles Tilly:

Don’t get blindsided by neuroscience, which is going to make individualistic, brain-centered accounts of human behavior even more popular for the next ten years or so. Anticipate the following phase, when even the neuroscientists will begin to recognize the importance of social interaction in the formation of individuals.
Paul DiPerna:

Along similar lines…. if you have any hopes for the next generation of scholars, what would you like to ask of them?
Charles Tilly:

Figure out how to do relational analyses that provide valid explanations of individual behavior and are accessible (at least in simplified form) to readers outside of social science.

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Filed under Great Quotations, Networks, Scholars, social theory, sociology

Discussion from Socnet on Organizing and Networks

Here is Blyden Potts’ response to a socnet query bout who first started refering to organizations as networks…

It seems to me that asking the question the way your friend does
misunderstands the nature of the issue.
Social organization means patterns of social relations, and any pattern of
social relations is — or at least can be understood as — a social network.
Social networks are not a “fundamental form” of social organization, they
are a way of conceptualizing any and all social organization.

If your friend’s desire is to argue that people are organized in social
networks no reference to any literature would seem to be needed. It is
essentially tautological to say that people are organized in social
networks, a bit like saying the weather is organized meteorologically, and
if it really needs to be demonstrated then why not ground it directly in
empirical examples? The “new era” discovery of social network research was
not finding a new way in which people were organized. It was in finding a
new way to conceptualize and analyze whatever ways people are organized.

I think your friend would do well to reframe his approach from understanding
social networks as a type of organization, which it is not, to understand
social networks as a way of thinking about social organization, which it is.

And I would think Barnes would be a good example of an early work that lays
the foundation for the network way of thinking about social relations:

“Each person is, as it were, in touch with a number of other people, some of
whom are directly in touch with each other and some of whom are not…. I
find it convenient to talk of a social field of this kind as a network.* The
image I have is of a set of points some of which are joined by lines. The
points of the image are people, or sometimes groups, and the lines indicate
which people interact with each other. We can of course think of the whole
of social life as generating a network of this kind. For our present
purposes, however, I want to consider, roughly speaking, that part of the
total network that is left behind when we remove the groupings and chains of
interaction which belong strictly to the territorial and industrial systems.
… what is left is largely, though not exclusively, a network of ties of
kinship, friendship, and neighborhood. This network runs across the whole of
society and does not stop at the parish boundary.”  (p.43)

*Barnes’ footnote for “network” makes clear he is talking about an “image”
and “convention” for depicting social relations, not some particular KIND of
social relation.

Blyden Potts

Its a great quotation to have of Barnes.

I thought Simmel did some early conceptual framing… but i never got around to reading Simmel.  :<)

Barry Wellman’s original query:

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Filed under economic sociology, Networks, Scholars, Social Networks, social theory

The Grid is coming

The fine folks at CERN- the European physics research center where the WWW was born- seem to have a sense of humor.  They are calling their new super-duper network the grid.  Seems right out of cyberpunk imagination.  At least its not called the matrix.

Coming soon: superfast internet – Times Online
That network, in effect a parallel internet, is now built, using fibre optic cables that run from Cern to 11 centres in the United States, Canada, the Far East, Europe and around the world.

This strikes me as a fine example  of all the associated and indirect benefits form basic research funding.  Something that private corporate research would never invest in.   According to one FAQ from a British university, the total cost is something like $6 billion.  Total.

Compare that to the $374 million/day for the Iraq war. That is about a billion every three days.  In less than a month in Iraq, we will have spent more than the Europeans are on their new basic research tool.  What madness and folly is this?

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Filed under innovation, Networks, technology

Critical Realism and Network Theory

SOCNET brouught this symposium across my screen.

“Against The Flow: Critical Realism and Critiques of Contemporary Social Thought.”

Too bad it is in the UK.  :<(

I would particualrly liked to have seen :

Jonathan Joseph,
“A Critique of Networks and Flows”

AND

Nick Hostettler,
“Dialectical Critical Realism, Marxism and Critiques of Network theory: On Continuity and change in the theory and reality of civil society.”

Maybe I can hassle authors for papers.

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Filed under Networks, Research, Social Networks, social theory, sociology