by Stephen Downes
May 11, 2014
Trading routes, bypasses, and risky intersections
University of Bonn,
May 11, 2014
I found a lot of good stuff in this paper, which I found while looking for a combination of Harrison White and Actor Network Theory. Part I.1 has a nice summary of the history of the distinction between groups and networks. Part II.1 talks about network governance and II.5 talks about informal networks. Part II.1 takes what I consider to be the key network 'turn', from network content to network structure. "Explanations stem from analyses of patterns of relations." III.3 talks about the autonomy of entities in the network, and III.4 talks about strong and weak ties. III.5 ties this explicitly to the 'small worlds' theory. In section IV we see the "promising turns" and a discussion of rhizomes, ANT and related issues. Finally, in section IV.3 Harrison White is presented as a softer alternative to ANT: "following White’s path allows us to unlock the actors from the rigid grid of homogenous ties and to place them in the fluid context of an entire spectrum of network domains."
The Basic Framework in the General Sociology of Harrison C. White
May 11, 2014
While writing my posts over the last few days I had occasion, thanks to a tweet, to look up a number of works by and about Harrison White. It's not an understatement to say that a lot of what I say is anticipated years earlier in his work. "Social life is made up of endless chains and multiple overlapping nets, with no clear boundaries. It is long stings .... It is only a messy mesh or, rather, mush. Social reality is a terrain, a typology of networks and chains."
I like what I've seen of White a lot, and it is not surprising to me to read in this interview that he was a friend to Herbert Simon (of Newell and Simon). The major statement of White's thesis can be found in his book Identity and Control. "White replaces person with identity, which, in a distinctively human sense, emerges from frictions and social noise across different levels and disciplines in networks. Likewise he reshapes the notion of goals, maintaining that they merely inhabit sets of stories used to explain agency."
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