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RE: <nettime> Network, Swarm, Microstructure
Shannon Clark on Thu, 20 Apr 2006 00:36:05 +0200 (CEST)


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RE: <nettime> Network, Swarm, Microstructure


A "network" as is being discussed can also be an element within
otherwise hierarchal systems (and indeed as I wrote before you can think
of hierarchies as themselves being just one type of network structure)
but for this discussion consider the following.

- network relationships can (and indeed usually are) just ONE of the
relationships that people (or organizations) are a part of. In other
aspects of their life/business they may be in a more ordered
relationship.

- the US military (and many other militaries I'm sure) is looking deeply
at what they term "network centric warfare" - this is not just how to
deal with an enemy that is organized loosely as a network, it is also a
rethinking of many, perhaps most aspects of how the military works -
especially in the battlefield - to function more like a network than a
hierarchy. But it is important to recognize that this is all within a
framework of a hierarchy.

See http://www.mors.org/publications/phalanx/dec00/feature.htm (John
Gartska the author of this article spoke at MeshForum 2005 - I'll try to
get his audio up online if I can)

Some of the most complex areas of research today into Networks is
looking at how different networks (and even different types of networks)
interrelate and interact. The markets example mentioned below is just
one example, others are the interrelations of transportation systems and
communications networks, or of people within organizations (which might
be "networks" or structured as hierarchies) with other organizations
such as cities, states, countries, political parties, religions in which
they may also participate but which may have dramatically different
structures.

Internet protocols function not because of military might but because
the providers of the underlying tools have all agreed to build on top of
a set of tools. The Internet, which is different than Internet
Protocols, functions because a few set of key authorities are agreed to
by many (ICANN, the main "root" dns servers, the underlying routing and
DNS protocols). These are a mix of public and private effort. The pipes
which much of the traffic now goes through are likewise a mix of public
and private work - microwaves, fiber, cable, and some satellites.

In terms of the question "could a 'network' take over the functions of a
state"? I think it would be important to be very clear what you mean by
a "network" and to consider how (and if) you account changes in
structures over time.

i.e. if by "network" you mean a structure where connections are diffuse,
where there is no single node through which information/power has to
flow - then no, such as system probably does not match up with the
requirements of running a state of nearly any significant size - i.e. a
system where at some point the cost of interactions between the nodes is
vastly higher than the value of the decisions that need to be made, so
they have to able to be implemented quickly by some "authority"

But it also is a matter of much interpretation - if you think about
current states - in many respects they are better represented by complex
networks than by "simple" hierarchies - think about terms such as
"spheres of influence" often used to describe the people in a given
government. Or consider then multiplicity of authority in the US
Government - the at least theoretical checks and balances between the
parts of government and the many groups of people behind each part of
the government (the cabinet of a President, their staff, the political
parties). It is certainly very possible to look at network maps of all
of these various people - to look at the formal and informal ties
between them (family ties, financial ties, reporting authorities under
the law, committees that they serve together on, the states they
represent etc) and to from that build up a very complex web that shows
how everyone is interconnected.

Very likely such a map or better yet series of maps over time would also
show differences between the theory (how the formal structures are laid
out) and the practice, it likely would also show how there are a variety
of types of ties and links between people - deciding what (and if) to
represent would result in very different diagrams. These intersections
could be highly revealing.

(for example in the US government you could look at mapping out formal
ties to political parties - for most politicians this would be easy, for
many of the people who serve under them via political appointments it
would also be relatively easy, but for many public officials and some
people such as some Judges, this might be much trickier) And the
resulting map might need to be supplemented with other overlays - such
as geographical ties, religious ties, voting patterns, common
service/employment/school ties - all of which might show other groupings
and structures - even across "party" lines.

The point is that networks are both vital and very complex - it is an
overloaded term - with too many meanings. 

That is also precisely my own interest in the area - this multiplicity
of meanings and perspectives, the bringing together of people across
very different backgrounds is an area of thought that is vital to many
different fields - from politics to economics to technology - and each
field that thinks about and works with (and within) networks can and
does offer unique insights and perspectives.

Shannon


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