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At the risk of over posting...let me say this and then be quiet:
The social is what we decide it is. Solar winds are not. They exist.
If you parachute into an exotic other tribe with little outside contact,
say in a rain forest somewhere, you decide what is social in your
narrative. Meaning is in their minds, but you cannot see it unless you
become participant--the same might be said of a dolphin or whale, etc.
How can I decide what is a social network amongst urban African American
youth? I can't unless I immerse myself. Otherwise I am only describing
them as I see them...perhaps with profound biases and ignorance even
while I draw pretty pictures others nod at and accept.
That is, their social is not your social. The anthropologist's job is
often to bring these two Others closer together--to align meanings. But
it does not bring them closer together for you to apply your social to
their culture. That only reinforces your sense of meaning, and I doubt
that can be called "science" or even learning.
Is having a tattoo a social network? Yes, it is for me in my world.
But for you? Maybe, maybe not. Is it for a various Amazon peoples?
One of the biggest topics in political and cultural geography is the
perspective bias of maps--see Edward Soja's work for instance. Maps
come from deciders--they are models. A map of the planet Mars means
nothing to a rural Pakistani unless they can interpret it by knowing the
language, the conventions, the references. These are decided.
To connect to a computer network, you need to use a given protocol
suite. You cannot do so otherwise. The computer "decides." Computers
demand you adopt their ontology to talk with them; they have overbearing
identities. Humans are usually more forgiving about interacting with
nebulous ontologies. To say you are modeling the social means you have
decided what the social is--perhaps because your tools (e.g. Pajek)
force a certain way of knowing. That is great leap for some of us if
applied without much reflection.
If your social network analysis is about your ontology and not that of
the subject, you are not doing anything but reinforcing your own sense
of relationships. That is the cultural hegemony I am trying to
articulate. Meaning is the social. If there is little or no
meaning--no problem. It is then external--like the phenoms we refer to
as "solar winds." But it is also unlikely to be "social."
From: Don Steiny [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
Sent: Friday, January 05, 2007 10:50 AM
To: Lanham, Ryan
Cc: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Recommender systems
I don't understand the question of networks having or not having
meaning. It is like asking: do solar winds have meaning? Does weather
have meaning? We make maps of these things to see if we can find
patterns in them that allows to organize our information, communicate
our findings and make predictions. Geographic maps can be topological
or political and many other choices and they can be in great detail or
little detail. The weatherperson can say "today will be sunny," without
making a general comment on all weather. Cat scans have meaning only
because they guide the health care practitioners to next steps, just
like a road map guides us on where to drive.
I take the "social" in social network to mean "social objects"
socially constructed things like cities, people and such. There several
independent groups that came up with their own meanings of "social" and
it is not that important since computer networks are social networks.
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