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Ryan, you may want to look at David Krackhardt's work on viscosity
models of diffusion of controversial innovations. Sorry if you already
know about it. Anyway, this is a piece of work in the area of
organizational theory that seems to me to be quite close (but
unavoidably not similar) to the "spirit" of mathematical
conceptualizations of fluids in the context of continuum mechanics. Of
course, physicists nowadays keep on developing their own models (in
what they call econophysics or sociophysics) of particle or
statistical mechanical systems which are supposed to be dealing with
society and social phenomena. However, in my opinion, these are just
formal computations or simulations and what they're lacking is
substantive social theory.
On 11/6/06, Ryan Lanham <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
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> I have spent some time trying to conceptualize an issue that I think
> borders on SNA if it isn't part of it. Perhaps a mathematician or
> physicist in recovery or someone else might help.
> I would like to theorize that the melting characteristic of
> organizations that I am finding in my qualitative research is due to an
> increased energy in the movement and mobility of persons into and out of
> places. This is both a mobility of physical movement and a mobility of
> connectivity through IT--email, phone, web, etc.
> My mental picture of this is molecules in motion with various types of
> contexts yielding state changes, etc. in various situations. Thus there
> might be analogues for PV=nRT etc.
> Thus, bureaucratic organizations (the state, corporations, etc.) are
> relatively like ice cubes--rigid, fixed, and fairly stable in molecular
> terms. As energy in systems heats up, the ice melts and fractures and
> bonds become more liquid. Eventually energy inherent in relationships
> reaches levels where the relationships are not liquid-like but more
> Energy is a function of the motility of information.
> Certain organizations are like containers of liquids and cubes made of
> ice. Nation-states might fit this bill as might language groups or what
> I call ontologies--e.g. religious views.
> Because I am interested in actor-network-theory, I also postulate that
> organizations with rigid physical structures as actants (e.g. buildings,
> HQs, specific types of systems, accounts, etc.) are also more ice-like
> and that information is less likely to flow far and with greater energy
> in such organizations. As they melt, there is a sort of slush.
> I am trying to get past the metaphor stage. Any ideas on how to begin
> to look at a "kinetic SNA" (i.e. relationships as expressions of
> energy)? Has this path already been worked out? I can't find it if it
> Ryan Lanham
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