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I think a link between the angle taken by Dimitris and that suggested by Olumide and me lies in what Moses referred to: the work of Donna Haraway, particlarly her and others' writings on cyborgs (definition negotiable but generally: entities which straddle the boundary of the human and the non-human, certainly encompassing Dimitris' notion of AIs). The Cyborg Handbook, edited by Chris Gray (Routledge, 1995) contains contributions by Haraway and others and would be a good starting point - probably followed by Haraway's work on animals, as suggested by Moses. Dimitris' general point is an interesting one and of course philosophers of ethics have been discussing the rights and statuses of children, animals, unborn foetuses, and so on for a lot longer than arriviste network scholars like us.
In contrast, the line of thought extending from actor-network theory does not suppose that network members have agency of the same type as human but looks at how human actors refer to and engage with "non-human actors" (which may be inanimate objects) in order to establish and re-establish membership and non-memberships of groups (networks). Susan Leigh Star's idea of "boundary objects" exemplifies one direction in which this idea was taken (see e.g. Star SL and Griesemer JR.1989. Institional Ecology, 'Translations' and Boundary Objects: Amateurs and Professionals in Berkeley's Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, 1907-39. Social Studies of Science 19:387-420). That human actors make connections with non-human actors in order to forge connections and build alliances with other human actors makes this an area well suited to a network approach - and that goes whether the non-human actors are animals, objects, concepts, or anything else.
Dr Iain Lang
Epidemiology & Public Health Group
Peninsula Medical School
RD&E Wonford Site
Exeter EX2 5DW
tel. +44 (0)1392 406749
email. [log in to unmask]
From: Social Networks Discussion Forum [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Dc Christopoulos
Sent: 17 April 2008 11:03
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: German shepherd and social networks
The human child entails the prospect of full reciprocated, interactive relations. In essence it holds the promise of social interaction. As we ascribe some metaphysical attributes to our relationship with our offspring the tie from the parents side might be a very strong one (and the dependency tie from the side of the child even more so) and therefore a substantive one. I would conceptualise this as a core periphery one where the child's external ties are brokered/filtered by the parents until in adolescence the child 'revolts' and builds ties unfettered by family brokerage. Or maybe not so, for those boys still living with their mother at 35 :)
The dog is obviously a more intriguing relation. The tie exists in the mind of the 'owner' so it could be considered subjectively real. As a conduit between people the dog does not need to be considered a part of the network. It is the activity of dog walking, owning etc that brings people together. Similar to tea parties. It is apparently true that Border Collies have vocabulary recognition similar to two year old babies but does that interaction imply a social tie? I doubt that. Sharing a dog's ownership between two people (the stronger and most unlikely case) could be seen as a choice of bonding rather than an act of bringing a dog into society.
I would argue that the most intriguing development of your argument is whether we can envisage building social ties with AI. A rudimentary indication of that is that we become partial to artificial characters we create (see second life) or we game with. But then again that says more about our need to develop ties (even if imaginary) rather than the real existence of such.
My two cents worth
Dr Dimitris C Christopoulos
Department of Politics
Bristol BS16 1QY
From: Social Networks Discussion Forum on behalf of MARKKU LONKILA (SOSIO)
Sent: Thu 17/04/2008 09:49
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: German shepherd and social networks
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I want to stir the pot of social network definitions with a question about the notion of `social´ in social networks. Can a five-year-old German shepherd belong to one´s social network? How about a one-month- old baby? Compared to the dog, the small baby is clearly much less communicative and interactive. Moreover, the dog may well be as central to one´s `social´ life (e.g. though connecting the owner with other dog owners and dogs) than the network member with human dna...
Docent, PhD, Researcher
The Finnish Centre for East European Studies / Department of Sociology, University of Helsinki
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