Networks and globalization. by Jim Davis is a wonderful paper building on the network theory and explaining some key network concepts in useable terms and chunks. Jim takes a bleak outlook of the network effect specifically on global trade but has some real zingers packed in his narrative. He ends with a call to the network to swarm intelligence on reworking the law system of globalization. He is a network thinker and a social change advocate. I look forward to connecting with more of his work.
This is a great summary paper. I would love to add a few things and riff with Jim on network purity, cascading failure, etc. Jim is picking up all the right ideas in all the right books and applying the concepts to globalization challenges. Very cool.
There are lots of interesting points and summaries in the paper that should stimulate thinking by network-centric strategists.
My favorite mind bender is "Technology is the means by which we interact with world. Consciousness is shaped by and shapes interactions with the world." This is an amazing assertion that because technology as increasingly dominating interactions (phone, tv, internet, ATM, car, etc) is it shaping the consciousness we can achieve. Do public opinion polls measure out this way? How has the technology shaped consciousness?
How does information overload the individual "nodes" or peoples' processing power so that increases in interaction do not increase consciousness but instead dumb it down? I also interested in exploring the generational "gap" that may create separate consciousness enabled by technology. Will IM influence the way young kids interact with people of different social, geographic and issue networks? Will blogs and the connections online challenge traditional power structures?
"laws" are the necessary, general, definite, stable connections between phenomena that cannot fail to occur given a particular environment or field of operation. In network terms, connections between nodes have a definite quality. The law system constrains a network.
What are the laws that govern advocacy campaigns? Are those laws the same as power and wealth laws? Does the value of preferential attachment decrease as people are able to connect and disconnect more easily from campaigns, parties and organizations?
Networks under specific conditions may undergo "global cascades", where change quickly sweeps through the network. In some cases, the change is a breakdown of some sort, leading to cascading failure. The failure of one node places additional burdens on connected nodes, which in turn fail, passing their burden along, until there is a systemic collapse. Under normal conditions, various controls and feedback mechanisms would isolate the problem and protect the network. If, for whatever reason, the problem cannot be isolated, or the number of links and amount of redundancy in the network is limited, dramatic failures can occur. In the electricity blackout of 2003, a routine failure complicated by a series of mistakes and mishaps dominoed through the northeastern U.S. and Canadian power grid and ended up shutting down power to some 50 million people. While an important logic behind speculative capital is risk management, the tying together of markets combined with the leverage (speculating with borrowed money) that accompanies speculation also introduces "systemic risk" into the financial system. The unexpected event can overwhelm the normal shock absorbers in the system. The rich web of connections helps set up what Saber calls a "financial resonance". Instead of dispersing, the normal noise in the financial system harmonizes, possible culminating in the collapse of the entire systems.
Still, one person's network failure can be another person's network liberation. Global cascades describe the rapid transformation -- a leap -- from one state or phase to another, or even a different, more profound kind of change, from one law system to another. The combination of a node's "change threshold" and its connectivity to its neighbors will determine the possibility of global cascade in a system or network. (Watts, 2003) Since change threshold is itself a dynamic property, global cascade may not be possible under some conditions, but become possible under others
Network-centric advocacy is about developing the strategies and building the framework which will enable the network of progressive social change actors to create and foster the conditions which accelerate "cascading failures" of the political organizing strategies of those that wish put their own self gains above human rights, community health or environmental sustainability.