The Basic Framework in the General Sociology of Harrison C. White

Reza Azarian, OLPC News, May 11, 2014
Commentary by Stephen Downes

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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