3/3/09

Widening the study of global networks

It is time to widen the complexity science vocabulary on global networks. Two rather disparate literature currently exist:

First, there is the new science of networks, and its very specific focus, web science. This literature is dominated by the work of Watts, Newman, Barabasi and scholars in the natural sciences. Web science is a specific focus, examining the world wide web and internet.

Second, there is the globalization literature, and its very specific focus on network society. This literature is dominated by the work of Wallerstein (world systems theory), Manuel Castells (global network society) and John Urry (mobile society and global complexity).

While these two literature are outstanding, not much has been done to bridge them. The closest example from the globalization side is Urry's work in Global Complexity. Related is Wellman's work on web science.

Again, these two literature differ in scholarly background--the first comes from physics and the natural sciences, while the second comes from sociology and political science.

They have lots to say to one another. The global network society literature has a lot to say on the social factors within which global networks are currently situated. The new science of networks has a lot to say about how the structure and dynamics of global networks work--for example, see Barabasi's recent article in nature on mobility.

Disserations, masters theses and funded research await those willing to integrate these two viewpoints in empirically grounded ways.

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