Networks and Complexity
Overwhelmed? C'est normal, relax. The class is based on exploratory exposure, letting you dig into those materials and problems that interest you: not on mandatory homework. The sooner you get immersed, of course, the better. There reading will be passed out in phased packets (whole ensemble on the web), you should choose a topic shortly after each packet is passed out to do a presentation, building up to your term project
A secondary theme of this year's class is to integrate the study of cognition with
network analysis. Anthropologist Edwin Hutchins, following a thesis established by
Charles Sanders Peirce (1909), demonstrates how human thought, far from being a strictly
internal mental process or innate structure (contra Chomsky), is grounded existentially
in material practice and distributed cognition in which an agent utilizes the environment
and social learning as active constituents of cognition. Hutchin's ethnography constitutes
the leading edge of this line of research, in contradistinction to much of the modeling of
thought in computer science such as information processing models.
The postulate of agency (atomism) interacting in an environmental field is fundamental the
analysis of complex systems (Complex Systems: Atomistic units),
a second major theme of the course and readings, emphasizing the dynamics of interaction
and field processes. The physical structure of complexity is based on
The "Existential Graphs" of Charles Sanders Peirce (MS514), as a model of thought, also emphazise a primary level of existential objects, a secondary level of their attributes, and a tertiary level of their interactions. Interactions may also involve how agents differentially perceive attributes of objects, and other types of mediations. A great deal of modeling along this line is currently being developed in computer science, following lines established by John Sowa, under the rubric of "Conceptual Graphs."
Browse: A Brief Introduction to Conceptual Graphs by John Sowa longer treatment:
The search for a truth-valued logic and its integration into mathematics,
initiated by Friedrich Ludwig Gottlob Frege
(a major influence on Peano and Bertrand Russell, and giving rise to Russell's paradoxes),
is finally being abandoned with the movement to restructure this component of mathematics, lead
by Rudolf Wille. Wille takes logic as having a particularistic grounded form in human thought
(a view consistent with classic roots of logic), with the role of mathematics as providing a
formalization of possible worlds, many of which are far from realistic, and some of which
may provide a mapping for grounded logics. Wille's interest, like that of Pierce and Hutchins,
is in how thought is grounded in the dyadic relationship -- a bipartite network -- between
conceptual intention and (a constituted object of thought, e.g., "animal," "God") and its concrete
extensions (pointers to environmental objects or references, e.g., "Shiva"). Conceptual intentions
become the attributes of culturally (or logically) constituted objects. The tools provided by Wille's
Darmstadt group for concept analysis are downloadable and are ones we will use in this class
and Wille's Introduction to tells how to construct examples by hand.
Browse: ConImp and Diagramm downloadable computer programs
Before leaving this topic go back to Luc Steels and the overlap between the classical-pragmatic-formal concept analysis approach to grounded thought (perfectly applicable to sociocultural analysis across different cultural systems) and Wittgenstein's concept of language games and their situational grounding. Of interest to the anthropology of the future is the theory of language origins programmed into the SONY robot dog "Aibo." (at home you can install http://www.viewpoint.com/ and interact in 3D on-line at the aibo site) by Luc Steels. The talking heads experiment in which aibo as a socio-emotional language learner in a situated environment, trying to identify and play Wittgenstein language games is an amazing demonstration of the interactive basis of language and cognition. The analysis of the interactions among humans and aibo-like agents in the "Talking Heads" experiment would make an interesting dynamical network study of the evolution of language communities in socially cohesive contexts.
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Bikhchandani, S., Hirshleifer, D. and Welch. I. A theory of fads, fashion, custom and cultural change as informational cascades. Journal of Political Economy 100(5), 992-1026 (1992).
Valente T. W. Social network thresholds in the diffusion of innovations. Social Networks, 18, 69-89 (1996). Social network thresholds in the diffusion of innovations. Social Networks, 18, 69-89 (1996).
Kleinberg, J.The small-world phenomenon: An algorithmic perspective. Cornell Computer Science Technical Report 99-1776, October 1999.
Bornholdt, Stefan and Thimo Rohlf, Topological Evolution of Dynamical Networks: Global Criticality from Local Dynamics, Phys. Rev. Lett. 84 (2000) 6114.