New Network Theory – Katy Börner

On: June 29, 2007
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About Michael Stevenson
I am a lecturer and PhD candidate in Media Studies at the University of Amsterdam. I've been a contributor to Masters of Media since 2006, though I now only post occasionally. A short list of papers and projects can be found here

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nnt-0207Katy Börner, with her presentation Global Brain Pressures: Towards Scholarly Marketplaces, asks what the relationship is between knowledge and the individual, and knowledge and networks. Over a long enough timeline, one sees increasing specialization, and thus a changing perception of how knowledge is produced.


Her research involves mapping different (scientific) knowledge networks. One project considers co-authorship networks, where she sees patterns in terms of how ideas circulate among different actors – from individuals to universities and research centers. Old questions emerge, such as the extent to which science is driven by individual experts. Equally, then, questions of place and space return: to what extent does the production of knowledge depend on proximity of actors?

Katie is most interested in research on how we can better utilize collective knowledge, the global brain’alluded to in the title of her presentation. She suggests that in order to tap into this more effectively, it is necessary to follow Eric Raymond and adopt a model of the Bazaar (or marketplace) over that of the Cathedral. She reminds us, though, that this is far from how academic knowledge is accumulated, stuck as the universities are in tradition. What needs to be pursued, then, are changes at the level of infrastructure. Given the increasing amounts of computer driven empircal research, with social scientists rather than programmers behind them, one problem is that social scientists are not working together to produce better applications for the basic tools of data mining, mapping and visualization.

One possible solution to this problem is CIShell, “an open source, community-driven framework/application for the integration and utilization of datasets, algorithms, tools, and computing resources.” And Katy believes this is the kind of tool that will help transform the way science is practiced, moving away from the cathedral and toward the marketplace.

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