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SOCNET  January 2007

SOCNET January 2007

Subject:

Re: Networks and conformity

From:

Ryan Lanham <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Ryan Lanham <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Wed, 10 Jan 2007 10:06:30 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (87 lines)

*****  To join INSNA, visit http://www.insna.org  *****

Loet:

Do you really believe (like most STS scholars) that contexts are so
important? For example, can you discover from this message whether it
was
written on a laptop or a desktop, on a PC or a Macintosh? If you would
not
know, could you recognize my age or gender from it? No: this is STS
rubbish.
(It enables them to legitimate the writing of thick histories.) 

Contexts matter only if they are structural. For example,
university-industry relations may matter in pharmaceutical research or
in
the food industry. But it would not matter in itself whether I had a
brother
who was running a company. The crucial question is whether variation is
significant. If it is, we may be able to hypothesize structural factors.

Ryan:

Loet, what troubles me most is change.  I cannot understand why we tend
to think things are so stable in social science when even a cursory look
at history or technology signals so much radical and continual shift in
all but the least interesting things (to me).  Drawing a line between
two things seems almost an outrageous reliance on the static.  That sort
of networking is starting to look very long in the tooth to this
outsider.    

You suggest citations are somewhat unchanging.  I wonder.  I wonder when
the editors shift if the citations shift--this can be studied journal by
journal, let's say.  I would personally not be so interested in the
larger mix and centeredness as I would the differences--why is Science
different than Nature--because of its networks and authors and citation
policies, etc.  I care less about a global norm for "science" than I do
in how constructivism plays out.  That is the grail of social
understanding, I think.  

I also think it is more about WHO you are in academia than it is about
WHAT you say--that is my "social" context of concern.  That is THE
network to me.  But we do not study those sorts of things because
another context does not let us.  It is politically incorrect--not
uninteresting.  That sort of normative resistance to change is a
boundary.  

If I were a network scientist, I would be less interested in context
than I would be in inclusion and exclusion and change.  Dynamics.
Networks aren't good at context.  They just aren't.  They were intended
as discrete mathematics models and those just aren't going to cut it in
a stochastic world. Russell Lande does stochastic SNA
http://www-biology.ucsd.edu/faculty/lande.html in my opinion.   

Globalization and cross border networks would be my focus.  Why do we
still have regional speech accents in the US?  That is a network and
change problem--not a linguistic one.  Why do people believe in
"nations."  What is one.  What is community.  Those are SNA problems I'd
love to see more of in Connections.  Instead I fear people chase easy
data.  I do it too.  We all do.  We look for our keys under the lamp.
It is our nature.  But, then again, that is too broad brush.  You and I
and all our friends don't do it...we do good science.  

Why does innovation spawn positive feedback loops?  Again, to me, a
network problem, if there are such things (and I think there are because
we are invested in networks).  But what I see in networking is statics.
Fascination with fixity.  Wrong century for that, IMHO.  

You are right to criticize STS for wordiness.  I tend to eschew labels.
Even to call myself a scholar seems old-fashioned.  To say I have
discipline (in the university sense) is a non sequitur.  That is another
network problem by the way...why disciplines...who wants them and why?
That would be a boundary issue for those who are interested in STS and
SNA.

If I am right, and organizations are disintegrating, we are in the age
of dynamics not statics.  The environmentalists and evolutionists are
already well along.  I fear SNA is playing catch-up.  I think SNA worth
following because so many smart people care about it.  I assume because
of that I am misinterpreting it and wrong about its capacity to address
"context."  Time will tell.    

_____________________________________________________________________
SOCNET is a service of INSNA, the professional association for social
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