Monday, 20 November 2006

The Ecosystem Approach to Social Networks

In his novel 'Linked', Albert-Laszlo Barabasi states:

"The Internet, often viewed as entirely human invention in its creation, has become more akin to an organism or an ecosystem"

It is becoming more apparent that technology as biology is no longer a debate and is becoming an important school of thought that drives the way we think about networks.

Having worked as an environmental planner myself in a past life, I think there are many lessons to be learned from the environmental movement and in particular from environmental management theories.

Those theories saw enviornmental and social planners moving from traditional command and control models, to resource management approaches to more recently in the past 10 years, a theory they call the ecosystem approach .

I believe that we can apply the ecosystem approach to how we think about social networks. I am working on a presentation about this for a conference as we speak and when I finish it I’ll post it up here.


Mark said...

If you haven't read Fritjof Capra's The Web of Life, you should. Also you'd probably enjoy his later book, The Hidden Connections: Integrating the biological, cognitive, and social dimensions of life into a science of sustainability . (The first one is the foundation for the second; seemingly self-evident, I know, but with some authors you can read the second without the first; here, unless you're familiar with Prigogine, and Maturana & Varela, it's worthwhile reading the first).

Christopher S. Rollyson said...


Just happened on your musings, but this in particular struck a chord; a non-engineer with some background on object technology, I'm fascinated that software is approaching biology in that it is a network that encapsulates complexity and uses standardized messaging. For example, when the brain fires messages to make my fingers type, the rest of the body hears but doesn't respond because they don't offer the "service" that the brain is requesting. Maybe we can think of crowdsourcing as similar; (mostly) those who can respond to the request will do so.

Thanks for your thoughts!


Leigh said...

And I think the connections are getting closer and closer. Just the other day I bumped into a site called where he talks about the work of futurist Ray Kurzweil

"biological systems are also subject to the "law of accelerating returns", which had tremendous impact on information technologies. Indeed, the cost of sequencing and synthesizing gene base pairs have decreased more than 10,000 fold over the last 15 years, and this exponential progress is currently accelerating as predicted by Kurzweil

Real Time Web Analytics