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On Behalf Of Paul B. Hartzog
Sent: Thursday, November 09, 2006 2:27 PM
>Saying that social systems do not live is a huge ontological leap.
>Serious complexity scholars debate various kinds of superorganism
For me, dualities of life and non-life create boundaries. Usually those
boundary objects do not add much to a discussion. They exist to
reinforce a given ontology rather than attempting to increase commons.
The difference between an organization and a network rests in the
propensity of networks to be boundary-less. Organizations emphasize
identity. Identity is a vehicle of ontology. You strengthen identity
by reinforcing boundary objects at the edges of ontologies. Recall that
boundary objects are contested items that are mutually recognized at
some functional level by actants who apply differing ontologies to a
situation. Thus, the Golan Heights is a boundary object between Syrian
and Israeli ontologies. Both know what it is at one level, but disagree
how its relationships are structured at another.
Social movements, it seems to me, are attempts are transferring action
into identity. They form ontologies. The work of researchers is also
to knit ontologies. It is the extension of relationships, facts, and
ideas that can be applied to situations without raising a level of
An e-journal is a new attempt to circumvent boundary objects associated
with print production, editorial expense, and so forth.
It seems to me that in information terms, a boundary is a field where
relationship potentials of certain types are neutralized or
counter-reacted. In computer networks, boundaries are routers or cable
wrappings, etc. In semantic terms, a boundary is an inflexible
interpretation of a symbol. The cross means THIS. The Star of David
means THAT. Artists often create dissonance by playing with strong
ontologies that are not readily conscious in human interactions.
Dissonance serves to value or devalue an ontology. How much dissonance
occurs in situations is the stock price of an ontology. Less
dissonance, the more likely I am to keep applying a given ontology. The
more important an identity ontology, the less likely I am to enter into
situations where I might feel dissonance.
My argument is that post-Weberian organizations are generally tending
toward lower identity ontologies. That is because flexibility and
innovation is becoming biologically more important than stability and
control. In other words, bureaucracies are giving way to
actor-networks. I study this in relationship to Community Foundations
(I have a working paper if anyone is interested I am giving next week at
I believe that it is a general trend in all highly interactive (i.e.
trans-boundary) environments. I borrow this idea from ecology in
relationship to species diversity (e.g. how corridor ecology works...)
I don't mean this to be shameless self-promotion so much as an attempt
to move the conversations a bit away from continual reinforcement of
ontologies toward attempts to find commons (Marilyn Strathern's 2004
Commons and Borderlands on that point.)
What do I read on this?
Anthropology of globalizations (e.g. Appadurai, Aihwa Ong, Charles
Tilly, Mol, etc.)
Ecology and systems biology...especially Island Press-like Ecology
policy--e.g. Holling and Gunderson's version of Panarchy, Corridor
Ecology, Island Biodiversity research, etc.
Actor-network-theory of categories and borders (e.g. Marilyn Strathern,
Bowker and Star, Latour, etc.) I am particularly interested in the
notion of decentering humans in networks.
SNA--especially of the ilk that follows on Harrison White's insights. I
am particular interested in SNA as a discussion of crossing boundaries,
borders, cultural lines, civic elites, etc.
Experimental and evolutionary economics--because they are attempting to
get at motivations--which is necessary to understand identity formation
values and the value of leaving identities and moving toward new
territories (both real and intellectual).
International affairs and social theories related to post-Westphalian
policy matters--the decline of nations and nation-states due to
Revolutions, diffusions and innovations of all sorts--both agent-based
models and cultural ones.
I personally think all this could be organized (problematic) under
post-Weberian organizational theory, but it is more important to
maintain commons than identity--my very point.
I am always interested in where these discussions are occurring because
it is very hard to know how to not be tied to discipline on these issues
which, given the above, is obviously highly problematic. Any help,
pointers, side-comments or co-travelers appreciated.
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