Thursday, February 27, 2003

Well, that "virtual march on Washington" that I mentioned in class the other day did make it into the mainstream media, though who knows whether or not it was effective (or how you'd even measure that, short of our government deciding NOT to go to war). Here's the article from the NYT:

February 26, 2003
An Antiwar Demonstration That Does Not Take to the Streets
By JOHN TIERNEY

WASHINGTON, Feb. 26 ? The Mall was quiet, but the switchboard on Capitol Hill was swamped today as anti-war protesters conducted what they called the first "virtual march" on Washington. The organizers, a coalition called Win Without War, said that hundreds of thousands of people were sending messages by email, fax and telephone to the Senate and the White House.

There was no way to confirm those estimates, which the organizers said were based on the number of people who had registered online to join the protest. The virtual headquarters of the march is www.moveon.org/winwithoutwar/.

On Feb. 15, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators poured into the streets in cities across the United States, Europe and Asia, protesting the Bush administration's threatened invasion of Iraq. While those protests were largely peaceful, the logistics of organizing such conventional demonstrations can be overwhelming.

The decision to march electronically, beginning at 9 a.m. today, may have come as a relief to Washingtonians struggling with yet another snowstorm. The streets of the city have been clogged for the past week by snow left over from a blizzard on President's Day Weekend.

A virtual march might seem an ideal form of protest for a snowy day, although even electronic protest has its hazards. The protesters were urged online to help set the agenda by "sharing your thoughts on greats goals for our nation in our unique ActionForum," but this forum did not work as well as the old-fashioned kind in Rome. Virtual marchers who clicked on the link this morning and afternoon got a message that it was closed for "routine maintenance."

The event's organizers say it is the first virtual anti-war march ever held. They say 32 groups are involved, including the National Council of Churches, the N.A.A.C.P., the Sierra Club, the National Organization for Women and MoveOn.

The Sierra Club's Web site, www.sierraclub.org, encouraged its members to send this message to senators: "Don't rush to war. Let the United Nations inspectors do their jobs to resolve the Iraq situation peacefully. And reduce the chance of war in the future by ending the U.S. dependence on oil."

The Web site also maintained that this form of protest could be effective. "Senators pay attention when their phones and fax machines light up ? and stay lit up ? from morning until night. They'll get the message that Americans want peace, that we care deeply about saving lives, and that we are well organized."

If any chant will be remembered from this march, it may be the one heard by people who tried calling the Capitol Hill switchboard today. They got the same message over and over, a series of tones followed by a woman's voice saying: "We're sorry. All circuits are busy now. Will you please try your call again later?"

The organizers of the march said they were sending gift baskets to the switchboard operators and secretaries who had to handle the flood of phone calls and faxes today.

Wednesday, February 26, 2003

For those of us working on cybernetworks, there is a huge cache of material on ongoing research on cybernetworks funded by NSF at http://www.informationcity.org/ This material is easily accessible and specifically addresses the kind of questions we raised yesterday.

Tuesday, February 25, 2003

Here are the notes that I used on the general principles of ANT... Enjoy, Moira

Elements of ANT Networks and Analysis

·Ontological framework – networks need not be consciously formed (although they certainly can be), and we are all in them all the time (whether we realize it or not!). ANT is a view of the way that the world operates.

·Networks are heterogeneous assemblages – humans and non-humans alike are enrolled in these networks. One need not willing or even knowingly enrolled, enrollment is an effect of the network. Involvement in these networks is the path to material existence, the way that an object literally comes to matter in a given place and at a given moment.

·Contingent, Flexible – while these assemblages may appear stable and durable, they are in fact always subject to change. Stability, to the extent that it can exist at all, occurs only through (re)composition in which the changing assemblage assumes the same shape because the interests of the actors are translated into a common formation. Law explains, “ the bits and pieces assembled into an order are constantly liable to break down, or make off on their own…[S]truggle is central to actor-network theory” (Law, 1992; in Leitner, Lavlik, Sheppard, 2002)

·Relative equality in operation – All actors and actants (the name often used for non-human actors) are endowed with the potential to create the success or failure of the network. While ANT concedes that one actor or another may become more important than the other, it insists that these incidences are temporary and arbitrary. They can change at any time. Hierarchies are similarly de-emphasized.

·Power and Agency -- Agency is conceived as an effect of relations between and among actors, rather than as an attribute possessed by individuals. Power relations between actors involved network are not the focus of ANT

·Network produces material effects – ANT approach emphasizes that agency, and therefore power, resides in the networks themselves. Thus social structures, constraints and individual intentions are understood as effects of these networks.

·Scale – ANT sees these heterogeneous assemblages superseding traditional concepts of scale. Latour, quoted in one of our articles for today suggests that we should simply follow the networks where ever they lead rather than paying attention to whether they are local, national or global. He uses an example of a railroad to ask, is it local or is it global? Latour’s answer is that it is neither, “it is local at all point, since you always find sleepers and railroad workers, and you have stations and automatic ticket machines scattered along the way. Yet it is global since it takes you from Madrid to Berlin or from Brest to Vladivostock.”

Monday, February 24, 2003

C: GRASSROOTS NETWORKING: JOHN, RAFIA, AND KRISTIN

Our question:
In conceptualizing grassroots movements as networked, are the authors (or are we) naturalizing a particular view of networks, to be used as criteria of evaluation? How would this inform our analysis of grassroots “networks” as compared with elite networks or cybernetworks? Would insights from actor-network theory or social network analysis help prevent naturalizing a particular view of “grassroots networks”?


Evans, P. 2000. Fighting marginalization with transnational networks: counter-hegemonic globalization. Contemporary Sociology 29, 1: 230-241.

(2) Evans is interested in what he calls Acounter-hegemonic networks” which challenge the hegemonic global networks being created to serve transnational corporations’ (TNCs’) interests.

He identifies three types:
-- transnational advocacy networks (see Keck and Sikkink)
-- labor/consumer networks: networks that get information about products’ production, e.g. Nike shoes, to consumers.
-- transnational labor organizing, for example, Canadian, Mexican and U.S. unions working together.

(1) He takes Keck and Sikkink’s model (see below) and adds networks that are similar in form (non-hierarchical, formed of nodes and connections) but also challenge TNCs (whereas K & S’s networks challenge nation-states or supranational governance bodies).

(3)
a. He is interested in whether these networks can act globally/ scale up to be(come) “globalization from below.”
b. He is working within a Gramscian framework: He asks whether non -elite networks have the potential to become counter-hegemonic, to change the way the world is organized.
c. Since he sees elite networks (and non-elite networks) as unstable, he sees the potential for grassroots groups to ally with elite networks.

(4)
a. He does not ask: How hegemonic and counter-hegemonic groups are already linked (and the latter often co-opted), for example, how core labor standards could be used to improve conditions for third world workers, OR to retain jobs in first world.
b. Local networks fighting alone are ineffective. While global networks have been weak against stopping the dominant forces of capitalism, they can have some affect. Activists can’t prevent the WTO and NAFTA from opening markets that exploit labor, but they can use the strong leverage that these organization’s wield to try to impose better working conditions and environmental protections in the places where the WTO regulates commerce.


Schlosberg, D. 1999. ‘The politics of networking in the grassroots environmental movement.’ From Environmental Justice and the New Pluralism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 107-144.

(1) He discusses translocal networks of grassroots environmental activists. Specifically, he examines the SouthWest Network for Environmental and Economic Justice (SNEEJ) and the Citizens’ Clearinghouse for Hazardous Waste (CCHW, now known as the Center for Health, Environment and Justice, CHEJ). These umbrella networks link loosely with local groups to cooperate in activism around a variety of environmental justice issues.

(2) He thinks of networks using the metaphor of the rhizome: root structure characterized by connection, heterogeneity, multiplicity—and stresses how these grassroots environmental networks are unified yet retain diversity/difference. These networks are based on pre-existing social networks AND participants’ shared understanding of how power links issues.

(3) He looks at processes of network formation, networks= organizational practices, and activist tactics, and the emergence of these kinds of networks relative to capital restructuring. He examines grassroots environmental networks at very local scales, then considers how the regional and national networks interact with the local ones. He also asks how this network organizational model compares to SMOs like the big 10 environmental groups (and the conventional pluralist thinking they manifest).

(4)
a. Although he mentions that there may be power imbalances within networks, he does not ask about this in detail.
b. Networks are efficacious when they produce solidarity and sharing between multi-interested and diverse local movements. Movements should be grounded in people’s actual experiences which vary widely by place and problem, and so networks can only operate well when they accept that there is no one universal answer or strategy to environmental problems. If different movements compete between themselves and have a NIMBY attitude, then problems like waste disposal will just be shuffled around. But when grassroots movements present a united front and say “Not in anyone’s backyard” (NIABY), they can triumph.


Keck, M. and K. Sikkink, 1998. ‘Environmental advocacy networks’ From Activists beyond Borders. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 121-163.

(Keck, M. and K. Sikkink, 1998. ‘Transnational networks on violence against women’ From Activists beyond Borders. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 165-198.)

(2) They look at transnational advocacy networks, that is, NGOs and other activist and groups/institutions that form networks in campaigns for environmental issues, human rights, and women’s rights. Advocacy networks “are organized to promote causes, principled ideas, and norms, and they often involve individuals advocating policy changes that cannot be easily linked to a rationalist understanding of their ‘interests’” (p. 8-9).

(1) They see networks as voluntary, reciprocal, horizontal patterns of communication & exchange; as heterogeneous groups, with common cause, that mobilize to shame violators of universal norms. In the case study, for K & S, the network concept seems to function as ideal type, which coalitions may or may not approach, depending on various factors—but they are most interested in networks that take up causes of marginalized groups.

(3) They analyze these networks using traditional social movements theory questions, asking about political opportunity structure, resource mobilization, and framing. Their main question is whether and how these groups can gain the leverage to effect reform.

(4) They don’t ask: how groups establish connections, because to them the interests are given; how these particular issues gain resonance at larger scales, that is, how do these claims (of human rights, e.g.) become ‘universal’—for example, why discourses of human rights have become so powerful compared with, say, core labor standards.


Clark, H. 1994. Taking up space: redefining political legitimacy in New York City. Environment and Planning A 26: 937-955.

(2) Clark studies limited-equity tenant co-operatives in NYC. These co-ops emerged when tenants in abandoned housing—that was taken over by the city—organized to run their buildings themselves. The neighborhood networks Clark talks about are (a) groups of residents who live in these co-ops, AND/OR (b) networks of the leaders of these co-ops. She sees these networks as linking people in different co-ops in the same neighborhoods.

(1) For her, a network is a site of discursive formation of empowerment. Networks are constitutive of place, of identities, and of interests—and they operate through processes of communication in the lifeworld. She draws on Habermas’s notion of the lifeworld (as opposed to the structural economic system, with its particular rationality)—but diverges from Habermas via a feminist critique. Where Habermas sees the lifeworld as in/of the public sphere, Clark sees these communicative/network spaces as emerging from what is often considered the private sphere, that is, the (mostly Black, female) tenants’ experience in dealing with their households’ needs. Clark describes these networks as self-determining subaltern counter-publics: they are autonomous and define their own boundaries, and they are (at first at least) outside of and opposed to the dominant system.

(3) She asks what these networks are doing in space and to claim space (for example, by establishing community gardens, they claim public space and gain political legitimacy). She considers how shared experiences ground these networks, and asks whether these networks remain self-determining.

(4)
a. She does not ask in detail, how these networks formed, nor about power differentials within the networks. She also doesn’t ask how these networks could overcome or transcend their particular context, even though she is proposing that they could be some kind of mode with potential for altered citizenships and political challenge.
b. Individual housing coops that are not grounded in open communicative processes that stress understanding will founder. Networks of coops must recognize that they share some values and experiences, and form a common identity to be successful. But for Clark success is really defined by whether or not the movement is transformative. Transformative experiences empower people to take control of spaces like apartment buildings and gardens, and so redistribute resources. Transformative movements don’t just get people talking or owning, but move people from being marginalized to being active citizens.


General questions:
1. In their article on EU networks, Leitner and Sheppard explain that because it is widely believed that cooperative networks are effective, rarely are their outcomes evaluated - rather simply their level of cooperation. Several of the articles on Social Network Analysis focused on ascertaining, measuring, or characterizing the links and flows within and among activist organizations. Does this sort of analysis run a risk of ignoring whether the social movements are actually successful in their goals in favor of analyzing their form? This takes us back to the problem of defining success. Maybe the 'madres de los desaparecidos' haven't gotten info about their children, but maybe they have been a longer term influence on the government because of the pressure they've brought to bear.

2. How does Castells' ideas of 'space of flows' and 'space of places' help us understand our networks? For the Social Network analysis papers, several articles placed emphasis on personal connection and face-to-face communication as a key strength in networks whether in tying together agendas or lobbying on an issue. Are these interactions part of 'flows' as well as occurring in 'places'? I could use some discussion of these concepts, especially where they overlap.
Elite Networks (Tyler and Laila):
Discussion Question

In professor Peck’s article, it appears that the
business elites, or "maverick businessmen" constitute
nodes or hubs of a network which include elements of
the state in public/private partnerships. These
elements are combined in "interest groups" which seek
a particular form of Thatcherist neo-liberalism. As we
find in the Leitner and Sheppard article, networks are
topological. Networks evolve by creating linkages
between participants who were not previously
connected. Are the networks discussed in professor
Peck’s article not previously connected? Although
public/private partnerships were previously rarer, I
would doubt the elements within government who pushed
to form these institutions were not always elements in
conjunction with the neo-liberalist agenda. Although
the amount of power they previously had may have been
less. These networks also may be hierarchical, and not
necessarily self-organizing or flexible, only to a
point, although they are undeniably collaborative.
Does this back up what was said of "really existing
interurban networks" from the Leitner and Sheppard
article?
Question A
(What notion of "network"?) Ward uses "regime" as
synonymous with network. It's defined as an informal
public-private partnership for governance. Beaverstock
uses Castells' "flows" as networks, but takes the idea
a step further to include flows of people,
specifically business elites. Peck discusses networks
of business elites.
2. (What kinds of networks?) Ward: mostly local and
policy nets. Beaverstock: non-local, business
info-sharing. Peck: non-local, policy through
public-private partnerships.
3. (How do they identify and analyze nets?) Ward
doesn't really, that I can find. Very vague.
Beaverstock uses fieldwork (interviews with 72
business elites and 161 financial institutions to
determine their movement between world financial hubs
and their perceived benefits of these movements). Peck
uses a historical approach, focusing on Thatcherism as
the catalyst for elite business nets.
4. (How does author's conceptualization of nets
shape: a: kinds of questions asked, and b: conclusions
about their efficacy?) Ward has a very theoretical
approach, asking if regime theory applies to Britain,
and concluding that SRBs (Single Regeneration Budget)
are harmful, but ending on that upbeat note we've seen
in so many articles. Beaverstock is doing the
fieldwork approach, which leads him to assume the
existence of nets from a rather limited study. He
doesn't ask many questions and is not theoretical, he
simply reports his findings in support of elite flows.
Peck believes nets are effective because he is
concerned with their destructive power for non-elites.

The cybernetworks readings:Anant,Amy,Larry
Discussion Question

. Leitner and Sheppard say that networks were initially attractive to progressive academics and neoliberals alike although for different reasons. For the progressives networks were an alternative to markets and state. (cooperation as opposed to competition and hierarchy ?)
Can such networks actually surivive in an institutional environment dominated by the state and the market ? Can we think of examples of networks that approximate such an ideal ? Do cybernetworks come close to it ? Or does it depend on the actual content of the network transactions ?

A.
i. Agre's networks are information neworks although, he is focusing on the capacity of community members to get plugged into the nework. Those who gain technological knowledge are part of network communities.
Graham too is speaking of informational networks his focus os on the city scale.
Schiller by contrast is primarily looking at communcation networks and their metaphorical extension into everyday life.

ii. Agre conceives of a learning society, in which membership in the community is granted simply by learning that is easily accessible to people. Graham by contrast is looking at social and geographical inequalities manifested in informational networks. These inequalities can be redressed through progressive policies.This is in contrast to Agre's idea of learning to gain membership.
Schiller's article is very different from the other two in that it examines the contradiction that is at the heart of neoliberalism through the career of business communication networks.


iii. Schiller offers by far the most complex rendering of neworks as he examines he specific institutional sites in which these networks are embedded. It is Schiller's understanding of neoliberal networks as an extended metaphor for business communication networks that allows him to do this. Agre at the other end has perhaps the simplest understanding of networks and membership of networks as simly determined by learning. Graham on the other hand posits membership as determined by access to communcation technology. This allows him to raise questions of policy intervention.




Here is our discussion question, followed by our answers to the "questions to guide reading," from Moira and Ryan.

Discussion question:

• What analytical possibilities are opened up when we include non-human things in the study of networks? Does treating non-human things as actors (rather than simple “tools” or background elements) have the potential to reveal insights about neoliberalization and possibilities for resistance to neoliberalization? Or is it a dead end that contributes little to theory or political practice?

Questions to guide reading:

1) All but Hartwick conceive of networks as heterogeneous assemblages of human and non-human actors. In these case studies, the actors are enrolled (whether knowingly or unknowingly) in these networks for a particular political purpose. While other approaches might conceive of networks as formed by groups of people linking to one another, actor-network theory (ANT) insists that non-human actors (e.g., deer, gold, camcorders) play important roles in the formation and activity of the network. Another important distinction between ANT and other approaches is the agency attributed to network actors. Agency is conceived as an effect of relations between and among actors, rather than as an attribute possessed by individuals. Hartwick, on the other hand, argues that many of the non-human things to which ANT attributes agency are in fact social relations taking the form of commodities. She criticizes ANT as insufficient to analyze and expose the power relations involved in chains of consumption.
2) The case studies (Woods, Holloway, and Murdoch & Marsden) all discuss networks organized for political action. The networks in the case studies move between local, regional, and national scales; “local” political issues are addressed at multiple scales as different actors are enrolled in the networks. Woods, for example, discusses the controversy over a local ban on hunting, which was ultimately resolved when one of the networks (the hunters) enrolled extra-local actors to support them. In contrast, Hartwick discusses material commodity chains rather than political coalitions.
3) The three case studies trace the relations among actors within particular political coalitions. Instead of explaining the actor-networks as the effects of some sort of causal mechanism (such as the structures of capitalism or the intentions of individual human subjects), they focus on describing the networks and their effects. This approach emphasizes that agency, and therefore power, resides in the networks themselves. Thus structures and individual intentions are understood as effects of these networks.
4) A) The conceptualizations of networks in the case studies lead to such questions as:
a. Who are the actors enrolled in the network?
b. How do these actors come to be associated, and how do they work in unison?
c. How are actors represented?
d. Which links in the network hold, and which fall apart?
e. What are the political and material effects of the network?
On the other hand, the case studies don’t ask the following kinds of questions:
a. What is the overall political and economic context in which the network is operating?
b. What kinds of inequalities and hierarchies are there within networks?
B) These authors don’t undertake analyses of the efficacy of the networks they study. Instead of asking why some networks and not others are successful in achieving particular political objectives, they seek to use the network as an ontological framework to explore the workings of political coalitions.


Social Network Analysis
Minnesota (Jen, Nancy, Richard)

Discussion Question:
This selection of texts highlights the tension between viewing networks in terms of their structure and the role of agency (both of individual actors and groups). How does consideration of agency and culture advance our understanding of networks and the ability of social movements to effect change?

Carroll and Ratner (1996)
1 Networks among social movement organizations are structures of cross-over/linkages between their memberships.
2 The network they examine is the set of links and relationships among thirteen local ?social movement organizations? in the greater Vancouver local area. Particular organizations could be either grassroots, policy, party or a mix, but the relationships among them were measured by dual or multiple memberships among their activists.
3 They chose seven topical areas of activism (labor, poverty, gay/lesbian, feminism, environmentalism, peace, Aboriginal, coalition) and chose 13 primary organizations representing them. Through snowballing interviews and examination of archives and documents, they tried to determine how many individuals overlapped among organizations and within and among topics.
4 The authors come from a Gramscian perspective that to form a cohesive alternative political force, a coordinated discourse must be organized by the left. From this perspective, they find that the number of ties organizations have with each other may make them more effective (due to efficiencies and resource mobilization capacities) but also possibly create ?building blocks? of a counter-hegemonic force. Of course, this colors their reflections of the various groups, finding, for example, that the Aboriginal groups were least connected to others and suggesting that to be more effective they need to make more connections. They also promote a normative idea that the ?political-economic? (mental) framework tends to encourage more cross-agenda activism, as opposed to an ?identity politics? frame that promotes difference and can undermine those connections. Some things they don?t ask include: the quality/content of the activity by activists. ?Membership? itself doesn?t describe what goes on. Also, they valorize the work of the relatively few ?organic intellectuals? who are involved in multiple organizations on multiple issues, which in reality could indicate the domination of multiple organizations by powerful individuals or cliques with personal agendas that could be difficult to challenge or modify.

Emirbayer and Goodwin (1994)
1 Emirbayer and Goodwin focus on the constraining and enabling dimensions of relationships among social actors within a system. (1418). They are interested in how network analysis can identify causal mechanisms. Although focused on structure, the authors critique network analysis for discounting agency in its analysis,
2 The authors discuss identify two explanatory conceptual strategies that can be analyzed using three models. Relational Analysis focuses on the strength of weakness of social connectivity itself. Positional analysis focuses on the nature of ties to one another but not to a third party. Both of these conceptual strategies are examined within models based on structural determinism, structural instrumentalism, and structural constructionism. The authors use a variety of network case studies, including activist networks and elite networks.
3 The models are examined within the context of agency; to what extent to the models recognize the autonomous causal significance of cultural or political discourses in shaping the event under considerations.
4 At one level, the authors examine how can network analysis be used, what shortcomings does it have, and where can it be extended, particularly with respect to historical studies. How are social structure, culture, and human agency related. The authors contend greater attention can and must be paid in these models to the role of human agency and culture.

Bomberg (1998)
1 Networks of organizations and individuals coming together around policy issues and decision making. The authors emphasized the looseness and informality of these policy issue networks and how the permeability of EU decision-making processes affected the relative influence of various interest groups.
2 Informal networks of power and influence in the decision making process.
3 Through two case studies of environmental issues brought before the EU Directorate General XI, the authors looked at how various players inform, control, work to shift the balance power between groups. Networks are analyzed in terms of the power and effectiveness of the environmental lobby vis-à-vis business interests.
4 They conclude that because of the permeability of these networks and the resulting shifts in power dynamics, explains the conflicted nature of EU environmental policy making. Furthermore, the relatively weak position of environmental policy networks in relationship to other policy networks, influences their effectiveness.

Bosco (2001)
1 Bosco considers networks to be the spatially dispersed and locally-concentrated links among activists through shared membership, shared knowledge, finances, publicity or other resources (resource mobilization abilities).
2 He examines two networks of Argentinian ?mothers of the disappeared.? For over twenty years they have held weekly marches/vigils in the central plaza of the capitol and other towns all over Argentina and some in other countries. After a split in the early 80?s, one group has become insular (though geographically far-reaching), the other making contacts and cooperating with other activist organizations on related topics.
3 Through documents and interviews with members of these two organizations, he looks at strategies they employ to keep a movement going over several decades, in dispersed sites all over Argentina. He finds a mobilization of collective memory and group ritual, as well as international connections that can provide multiple resources such as funds and publicity.
4
a. Explores questions about the role of place and sense of place in shaping the durability of networks over time. Examines the issue of scale-jumping versus other networks.
b. Clearly, he finds this movement to be remarkably strong and durable over the years, but suggests that the organization with more outreach to other organizations and a more flexible membership is better poised to mobilize resources and keep going.


Here are a couple of questions about Actor Network Theory.

Woods' article faults ANT for failing to adequately take account of power relations. Is this a fair criticism of ANT? How do the various network approaches compare in terms of their attention to intra-(or extra-)network power relations?

What is the purpose of ANT, or, for that matter, other network theory approaches? Do they aim to better describe what happened in a given situation (which is all it seems to do in one article I read), explain why something happened one way and not another, develop mid-level generalization about how networks or social life in general operates, or contribute to large-scale theory about the way the society works (a la Burawoy)?
Here are some questions from Madison regarding Actor Network Theory:

Because Actor Network Theory is so focused on the centrality and agency of actors as nodes of networks, it tends to contain a great deal of optimism about the empowerment of
of actors within the political process. This optimism seems to be prevalent in many actor-centered approaches. Is there a connection between a theoretical focus on the actor and a tendency to overstate the power of actors? If so, is there a way to overcome this bias?

ANT as it is applied within the articles generally focuses on actor networks as means of resisting structural forces of neoliberalism, capitalism, etc. What are the implications of applying ANT to the often more monolithically conceived forces of neoliberalismgovernment and business networks, for examplein other words, how might a focus on actors within neoliberalism projects affect how we conceive and talk about neoliberalism?

When the object under consideration is a meaning, a representation, or a
message as it circulates within a structure of action, how does actor
network analysis account for a message's influence on actors in the network?
What gets more weight in actor network theory--the psychological effect of
the message's content, or the structural features of the network in which
that message circulates? If the latter, is this a satisfactory way of
accounting for social influence?
A quick and dirty introduction to social network analysis (by Claudia, Brenda, and Landy)

Social network analysis (henceforth NA) uses a broad definition of networks. Networks consist of actors and the relational ties that convey flows of resources, information, etc. between them. The approach began by considering interpersonal connections, but now includes policy networks, institutional networks, etc...(it appears to accommodate almost any set of relations/interactions). For this reason we would describe NA as a method rather than a type of network. A major component of this method appears to be the ?mapping? of networks (no spatial connotation implied here), which can be a complex quantitative exercise.

NA is used primarily to explain collective behavior. It treats actors and actions as interdependent, and networks as structures that constrain or enable these. Explanations of outcomes are located in the connections between network members. For example, our selection of readings included discussion of a) how networks have influenced EU environmental policy, b) how networks aided the development/maintenance of collective activist identities (in both Vancouver and Argentina). One strength of this form of analysis is that it draws attention to the context in which actors act and actions occur (novel thought?).

As suggested above, NA operates with implicit assumptions about agency, or lack thereof (see Emirbayer and Goodwin 1994 for a critique). It has strong structural underpinnings. Other criticisms include:
? NA excludes the notion that actions are culturally (in addition to socially) embedded.
? NA does a poor job explaining the origins of networks, and change in networks over time?it characterizes networks as lasting patterns of relations.
? NA also fails to show how networks are activated, and does not provide qualitative descriptions of interactions across networks?
? Most NA work (but see Bosco 2001) does not consider the spatiality of networks.

Some questions about NA we might consider:
? Can it be modified to give greater weight to agency and change within networks?
? How does NA compare to actor-network theory?
? Are there instances where the use of NA is not appropriate?
? Does NA account for uneven relationships/exchanges within networks?
? What does the addition of a spatial dimension add to NA?
? What are the boundaries of networks, and do they matter? Do network characteristics such as permeability and density matter, and how?

Sunday, February 23, 2003

While we realize MN folks will lead the discussion for grassroots networking, Max, Dawn, and I wanted to pose some questions from the readings:
1. What kinds of methods could get at both structure issues and agency issues regarding grassroots methods?
2. Can information technology or multilateral organizations truly provide a vehicle for effective grassroots networking?
3. Should grassroots organizations frame their action against the neoliberal agenda even at the cost of excluding certain groups or tools to include others?