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SOCNET  December 2002

SOCNET December 2002

Subject:

Re: Interesting reviews of Barabasi?

From:

Gad Yair <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Gad Yair <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sun, 1 Dec 2002 10:33:08 +0200

Content-Type:

text/plain

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*****  To join INSNA, visit http://www.sfu.ca/~insna/  *****

Todd!
While this is not a review, I would like to share my short reaction to
your request on Barabasi's work.

A few months ago someone on semnet recommended Barabasi's book "Linked:
The New Science of Networks" as well as another one by Mark Buchanan
(Nexus: Small Worlds and the Groundbreaking Science of Networks). I read
the review and immediately bought the two books from Amazon, and spent a
couple of days reading them. In retrospect, one is enough.

The book by Barabasi is simply brilliant, written wonderfully and indeed
worth a reading. The second one is a copycat - a very similar book with
much the same rationale and examples. Though interesting, NEXUS is much
less readable than Barabasi's LINKED.  Since, by chance, I read Linked
first, my experience of Nexus was rather disappointing. Furthermore,
Barabasi is a real working physicist, and Buchanan a science
correspondent. While you might have expected the latter to be the better
writer, this is far from being the case. In short - go for Barabasi's
LINKED.

Furthermore, what was enjoying for me, as a sociologist, was to find
physicists rejoicing new paradigm shifts in their mathematical
independence models, emulating sociology's basic rationale of dependence
as a truism of social structure. After 100 years of our young
discipline, it was heartening to see physicists listening to
sociologists and copying their stuff.  By the way, both books have Mark
Granovetter as a star quote, both inside the book and on the back cover.
Following the stories in both books, we can now form our own sociology
"numbering" - what is your Granovetter number (following the Kevin Bacon
numbers, or better yet the Erdos numbers...).

Less enjoying was the ignorance of both writers of the more general
collective contribution of sociologists (other than Granovetter) to the
science of networks. Many more studies, measures, and rationales have
been developed in network paradigms and social capital theories which
are simply absent from the reviews in these books. Though we can trust
these authors to know physics better than sociology, they might reinvent
some of our taken-for-granted intuitions.

Nevertheless, this (flea-like) criticism should not be mistaken:
Barabasi's is a must read for any sociologist, whether an expert on
networks or a novice. It goes deeper than our usual craft allows, is
peppered with new ideas, and may put sociology's reputation in a better
academic position. Some of the speculation about the structure of the
internet, hubs, and small worlds might enrich our own discipline with
new ideas and topics of investigation.

Just to make room for a new LINKED discussion...

Yours,

Gad Yair

Department of Sociology & Anthropology
School of Education
Hebrew University of Jerusalem

[log in to unmask]
voice: 972-25883333
fax: 972-25324339
cell: 051669391


-----Original Message-----
From: Social Networks Discussion Forum [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On
Behalf Of Todd Davies
Sent: Sunday, December 01, 2002 8:54 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Interesting reviews of Barabasi?

*****  To join INSNA, visit http://www.sfu.ca/~insna/  *****

I'm planning a course for the winter in which students will read A.-L.
Barabasi's book, Linked: The New Science of Networks.  I'm looking for a
good review or two to assign as well, and would like to know if there
are
any out there that are somewhat critical.  Any guidance would be
appreciated.

Todd

Todd Davies                   ***  Office: 460-040C (Margaret Jacks
Hall)
Symbolic Systems Program      ***  Phone: 1-650-723-4091
Stanford University           ***  Fax: 1-650-723-5666
Stanford, CA 94305-2150, USA  ***  Email: [log in to unmask]

_____________________________________________________________________
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