Editing Modernism in Canada


June 3, 2014

Thinking With Networks

“get to know the people in your class, make new friends, create new connections”

Today I started thinking in a more concerted way than usual about networks: the kinds of networks we form, and the internal dynamics of those networks that may or may not be evident to us. I am, of course, taking the Network Visualization course here at #dhsi2014, and one of the first things we discussed are the patterns and trends toward which social networks tend, including the principle of transitivity (we’re likely to become friends with our friends’ friends) and the tendency for us to reinforce the centrality of those nodes that are already central (do you cite the famous article or the barely known one?).


All this thinking about networks has brought together a constellation of recent thinking for me: the importance of citing one another in our scholarship, for example, and the political exigency of continually expanding our social and professional networks such that we do not shut out other people. But most of all it has me thinking about the urgency and the value of connection.

Network theory tells us that we are social creatures, that we tend toward relationship with one another. The energy at this afternoon’s reception and at Smuggler’s Cove later certainly confirmed it. In the face of the isolating impact of institutions and professions, friendship can be a radical act. I am hoping that, as I think through my own network visualization project, I can conceptualize ways to emphasize the idea that not all networks exist equally. But I am also hoping that this thinking about, and with, networks will keep reminding me of the way that my self and my research is only a single node within a complex web of scholarly collaboration and personal interconnection.

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