Seminar on the role of networks in the social sciences

May 25, 2017
Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (Room 201, Tibi3)
Av Tibidabo, 47. Free Entry.

The role of networks in the social sciences

Networks have been studied since the beginning of the social sciences (by Malinowsky, Simmel, Moreno, etc.), particularly in anthropology where they have been a major tool for understanding kinship as the basis of social relations and cultural paradigms. Yet, the second part of the twentieth century saw the network model emerging as a major contender for understanding society sociologically (Barabássi) — so much so, that Actor-Network Theory famously sought to replace the very notion of society with networks, and sociology with their study (Latour’s claim). Today, network analysis can be used to attack any problem or sphere of life whatsoever. The triumphant advance of networks have been tightly coupled with the inspiring imaginative and efficient practical development and application of Information and Communication Technologies. Indeed, computerisation mediates social life as such through material and conceptual networks.
The seminar aims to take up such a two-pronged idea of “networkisaton” — in social life in general, and the social sciences in particular — as an object of reflection in itself. While network methods have been seized upon with great enthusiasm by scholars across diverse fields, analysing their role as a social ontology is often lost in the flurry of practical results. A telling symptom is that methodological textbooks on the topic often come without a historical exposé of the field. Addressing such amnesia may help to re-invigorate knowledge production on and about both society and networks.

17:00 – 17:20 Maxigas (OSI/CareNet). Introduction.

17:20 – 17:40 Ramon Ribera Fumaz (TURBA Lab). We have never been networked: A symmetric geographies exploration.

Departing from past and current debates on scalar and network politics in geography, this presentation explores how by reducing social space to network forms, current theories of networks do not allow to explain the actual existing geographies of internet driven capitalism and its alternatives.

17:40 – 18:00 Antonio Calleja-López (CNSC). Constructing and deconstructing networks: Scattered thoughts on the ontologies of the social

“Network” is a term that has been used to name or qualify an age, a type of society, a social form, a form of association, concrete technologies, a new science, an STS theory, a set of methods, a visualization paradigm, a conceptual vocabulary, and more. In this intervention I attend to some key contemporary discourses and practices around “networks” and discuss aspects of the ontologies underlying, or emerging from, them.

18:00 – 19:00 Discussion

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