The power of flow in a network: Week 8 musings

I was scrolling through my Twitter feed this morning and one of my contacts posted an article from a magazine I had not heard of:  Politico Magazine.   @JGChesney’s comment caught my attention.

Untitled

I saw a network implied in the hashtag #Banksters and influence in the suggestion that cooperation could stop what is unfolding in Crimea.  I clicked on the link to learn more.

Network theory and world politics has been on my mind since watching Maureen Webb talk about “Illusions of Security” on Democracy Now and listening to Rebecca MacKinnon speak about China’s networked authoritarianism and her book “Consent of the Networked” on CBC’s Spark.

Webb’s description of the international network of surveillance tactics was sobering.  She cited examples of countries sharing information among their respective security programs to enable risk scoring of individuals.

MacKinnon’s discussion of the Internet as a place of contested ground and power, has me thinking about how “small” and complex the space is.  She encourages individuals to pay attention and think of themselves as “netizens” and argues that people need to engage and become involved in its governance like many do in around environmental law.

As I thought about netizenship, I considered Kadushin’s points about how networks of the modern world  “are held together by weak ties – relationships that are infrequent, less close and less intimate, but for that very reason very important.” (Kadushin, 2012, p. 42).  There is strength in weak ties because information and influence flows through.

The concept of “flow” was part of the Manuel Castells reading this week from his book The Rise of the Network Society.  He argues “the power of flows takes precedence over the flows of power” (Castells, 2000, p. 500) because, while human networks have “existed in other times and spaces, the new information technology paradigm provides the material basis for its pervasive expansion throughout the entire social structure” (Castells, 2000, p. 500).   I understand this to mean that power occupies the flow of information, ideas, money and other social elements through a network.

And, it was what Castells said about global economies that brings this string of musings back to the article I started with.  He talks about capital being global and flowing through “interconnected networks of variable geometry” (Castells, 2000, p. 504).   The fluid movement of capital is a result of our electronically networked economy and, as mentioned above, power resides in the flow.

In the article, “Why Russia No Longer Fears the West”, Ben Judah sets his sights directly on the flow of Russian money into the global capital market as his main argument.  He reasons that the interconnected nature of Russian capital in Western markets has shifted power and influence.   I wonder – could cooperation within the #Banksters network exert group influence and prevent Russia from moving into Crimea?  What would motivate them?  Who would broker such a move?

References

Castells, Manuel. (2000). Conclusion. The information age: The rise of the network society. Blackwell, pp. 469-478.

Kadushin, Charles. (2012). Understanding Social Networks: Theories, Concepts, Findings. Oxford University Press.

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3 thoughts on “The power of flow in a network: Week 8 musings

  1. Kelly, check my blog entry this week.
    It complements your blog post and provides with another application of network theory, as well as with some insights on the situation in bordering regions.

  2. Pingback: 88 Keys to a Fluid Internet | Jones Knows

  3. Pingback: 10 Master Ideas of Social Networks: brought to you by MACT 2013 Cohort! | Tanya's blog about everything

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