Society, Network, and Social Networks
Network studies have been described as “a terminological jungle in which any newcomer may plant a tree.” Since J.A. Barnes wrote that in 1972, newcomers have proliferated, the jungle flourished, and the ecosystem diversified dramatically. This growth is particularly evident in the region of “social networks” — though it can sometimes be hard to envisage anything social that could not be called a network. The aim of this course, then, is to try to understand what has been described as the “modern obsession” with networks, to try to decide what might be valuable and what ephemeral, and to see if we can justify such decisions. For this, we will attempt to set some recent accounts in both disciplinary and historical context. Consequently, we will look at contributions from different fields and different periods. In particular, this seminar will seek to encourage dialogue among its participants by examining the implicit dialogue among the texts we shall be reading and the fields they represent, while keeping an eye on cases where, despite the shared terminology, the works seem to have nothing to say to each other.