Sunday, September 25, 2011

Reading :: Linked

By Albert-Laszlo Barabasi

A while back, Mark Zachry, who knew of my interest in networks, recommended that I read this book. It's a popular book that overviews "the new science of networks," which is to say, network analysis. Needless to say, it's fascinating.

Network analysis shouldn't be confused with networked organizations (e.g., Castells; Arquilla & Ronfeldt) or sociotechnical networks (e.g., Engestrom; Miettinen; Latour; Callon; see my second book). Rather, it's a way of examining how any particular type of node connects with other nodes. It has a strong mathematical component. And although it can be applied to people (as in social network analysis), it can also be applied to atoms, bits, citations, bus terminals - anything that can be conceived as a class or type, then connected to others of the same class/type.

Barabasi does a terrific job of describing how network analysis has developed as it is applied in different fields and to different problems. Along the way, he discusses concepts such as emerging clusters, hubs and connectors, small worlds, and power laws. Due to his clarity and examples, he illuminated several things for me about network analysis - and particularly its differences with, and strengths and weaknesses in comparison with, networked organizations and social network analysis.

If you're interested in networks under any of these headings, I strongly recommend this readable book.

No comments: