Networks

One of the ways of thinking about collaboration is in terms of communicative networks. Probably inspired in part by the growth of the internet, there has been a an upsurge since the mid-1990s of interesting work on network theory. This work approaches the issue from a variety of different angles - including philosophy, sociology, mathematics and information science.

Below are some examples:

  • Marco Susani presented an interesting paper at the doors of perception conference/website on "mapping communication" in 2002 in which he identifies different patterns of group conversation and gives them names such as "the womb", "intimate daisy", "fish", "crest", and "infinite star" - each suggestive of the types of information flows occurring.
  • By contrast, there is a more traditional short introduction to social network analysis at orgnet.com crisply defining concepts such as degrees, betweenness, closeness, boundary spanners, peripheral players, network centralization, structural equivalence, structural holes, the E/I Ratio and small worlds. Orgnet.com also sell network mapping software.

Three recent books on networking are:

  • Linked by Barabasi
  • Nexus (pubished as Small World in the UK) by Buchanan
  • Six Degrees: the Science of a Connected Age by Duncan Watts. There is an interview with Watts at MIT Technology Review. Watts is part of Columbia’s Collective Dynamics Group - an interdisciplinary team working on the "new science of networks". One of their insights is that non-homogenous networks (such as the internet) are more robust than homogenous ones (such as microsoft's integrated network of products). This is because there are no single crucial vulnerabilities that can bring the whole network down. Quote from the interview: "On September 12, 2001, one hundred thousand people had nowhere to go to work. But somehow, within a week, all those companies were functioning again—and they don’t even know how they did it. I attended a roundtable discussion with some of these people, and they said, well, we kind of did this and sort of did that and got some help from these people and more help from those people—and pretty soon we’re in an office somewhere. "

Much more about networking in the chapter about networking in Vasi and Martin's Knowledge2Go book (still in draft form in the "notes" section).

 




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