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Some Interpretations of Ryan's examples below:

-I would say that the capacity of SNA is NOT to 'define' disciplines,
communities, and spaces, but to 'sketch'/ 'portray'/ 'draw'/ 'interpret'

- The example of 'clouds' of disciplines is based on the assumption that
cross-citation represents 'interaction' and interconnectivity between
disciplines, when in fact it is interconnectivity of scientists
'sharing' common language and problematic. The interconnectivity of
disciplines is only a 'representation' of interconnectivity of
scientists - reading and writing across journals, referencing across
disciplines, sharing a common understanding of concepts/theories and
problematic. Hence, these are maps of overlap of scientists' knowledge,
and not maps of interconnected disciplines. We can call these maps a
'proxy' to connectivity of disciplines, but not the real thing. They are
an interpretation of possible connectivity between disciplines, which
can be a subject to further interpretations.

- the dynamics of the changes in inter-citation is a map of changes in
'academic practice' for cross-citation, which of course can be
interpreted as changes within and across disciplines, but the latter is

- context analysis should enable us to distil our assumption that we
make in relation to the agency (i.e. academic choices for citation), the
interactions (cross-citations), the effects (i.e. clouds of
disciplines), and our interpretation of these effects (i.e.
inter-disciplinary dynamics).

I think I can make a similar analysis for the rest of the examples, but
I hope this will give some food for thought.

Best wishes

-----Original Message-----
From: Social Networks Discussion Forum [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On
Behalf Of Ryan Lanham
Sent: 11 January 2007 15:48
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Networks and conformity

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Dear Emanuela, Ryan, and colleagues, 

It seems to me that we all agree that SNA is a strong tool for the
analysis of structure in data, but that the dynamics ("change") require
additional methodologies. The best one can do with SNA is comparative

The jump to a cultural narrative as the only alternative is too quickly
made for me. The cultural narrative focuses on the cases which happened
to occur, but not on what might have occurred, i.e., the statistics of
the development. I suggest that we need a calculus for this and
information theory provides us with this apparatus:

The Static and Dynamic Analysis of Network Data Using Information
Theory, Social Networks 13 (1991) 301-345; at

Of course, one also needs substantive theories for the specification of
the mechanisms. Cultural studies can be very helpful from this


Loet, let me run a thought experiment and you tell me if it is SNA or
other methodologies.  

One defines spaces of disciplines by using journals citations over a
given time.  That is, this a physics cloud centered here overlapping
with chemistry over there.

One then plots by self-description the network of each annual awarding
of MacArthur Fellowships over time into those same spaces based on word
reference citations to the winner.  Could one show a "dynamic" model of
innovation interest as represented by MacArthur recognition--say over 10
years? That is, how innovation is moving into new and different fields?

Same concept with each domain of Nobel prizes inside disciplines.
Couldn't we show with a high degree of dynamics the environmental
movement of networks over time (i.e. dynamics)?

Or closer to my home, what if one plotted the network of building
permits in a city for substantive renovation permits and then used GIS
to show how these waves move again income maps.  Wouldn't that be a
dynamic, context-focused SNA of gentrification?  

Or let us plot the location of artistic grants from federal sources
divided by population over time.  Wouldn't that arguably show a dynamic
network of artistic innovation? 

Or in foreign trade, what if we showed production by sector in each
country and trade vectors by sector of each country trading with the US
by a list of commodities over time.  Wouldn't that show the impact of
trade on the economy of a nation with dynamic SNA?  Couldn't one make
assertions about NAFTA and its impact over time with SNA in such models?

I want to say that the capacity of SNA to define what is a discipline or
a community is its power to define "spaces."  By overlaying other graphs
against these spaces, one sees context-specific dynamics without a lot
of words...though I for one would still encourage thick descriptions and
ethnographies--particular in non-text media.  I don't claim this is
insightful or that such work is not being done, it is more predictive of
standards going forward.  

Ryan Lanham

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