[iDC] Michael Jackson and the death of macrofame
stephen at downes.ca
Mon Jul 6 22:28:41 UTC 2009
I'm familiar with Barabasi's argument. The point of the book is that
networks that grow through preferential attachment will exhibit a
certain type of hub-like structure. This is something that can happen
naturally, and it can also happen by design. Barabasi doesn't suggest it
must be one or the other.
Typically, though, he writes, there is an upper limit in such naturally
occurring hub networks. A tree trunk can only be so much larger than the
branches - and not millions of times larger. Similar limits exist in
many human created hub networks. O'Hare may be much larger than a small
airfield, but not millions of times larger. You can't put that many
planes in the air - there's a physical limit.
In networks we create, scale-free networks, however, there are no such
limits. Virtually nothing prevents a person from amassing a wealth
millions of times greater than a pauper. A broadcaster can have millions
of times more listeners than a non-broadcaster. The only limits are
almost meaningless - the total amount of money available, the total
number of humans in a population.
So I reach the opposite conclusion from Barabasi. The existence of an
essentially scale-free network implies the existence of a business
strategy of some sort - implies, in other words, the creation of
policies which tend toward hub-style networks. The creation of a
citation network, for example, just *is* an example of such a thing. We
have a mechanism for creating value, the citation. Why is the citation
valued? Well, for one thing, because it creates a preferential
attachment - which in itself benefits the publishers and authors of
those previous publications - who, not coincidentally, are exactly the
people who establish and propagate the practice of citation.
The practice of citation is as much (if not more so) a *business* logic
as an academic one. It is about assigning ownership and credit for ideas
- assignments of values. This *business* logic has so permeated existing
academic culture it is (almost) thought of as an academic virtue. But
(in most uses) it has no particular academic virtue at all - a citation
is rarely (except in exegesis) used as a form of evidence or argument,
and almost exclusively as a means of distributing some sort of academic
> It just means that it won't eliminate inequality, hubs,
concentrations, celebrity, or power-law distributions.
I never said it would. But, all in all, even a little reduction in
inequality results in a great increase in health and happiness. And a
lot of reduction would be epoch-making. I'll take whatever reduction I
And, actually, what I was advocating was not so much the frontal
blunt-force tactic of "opposition to centralized content management is
unwarranted" (though that is certainly the desired outcome) but rather
the more subtle tactic of identifying and altering business logics and
policies that create growth through preferential attachment.
Dean, Jodi wrote:
> Barabasi's book, LINKED, makes a different argument. The question is not whether there are deliberate policies of concentration--there are.
> But hubs occur without these policies--as in citation networks. Power laws are not the result of business strategies. They appear in all sorts of situations of growth and preferential
> The implication, then, is that the eliminate of business's drive for centralization is not enough to eliminate hubs or concentrations. This doesn't mean that opposition to centralized content
> management is unwarranted. It just means that it won't eliminate inequality, hubs, concentrations, celebrity, or power-law distributions.
> From: idc-bounces at mailman.thing.net [idc-bounces at mailman.thing.net] On Behalf Of Stephen Downes [stephen at downes.ca]
> Sent: Monday, July 06, 2009 4:06 PM
> Cc: idc
> Subject: Re: [iDC] Michael Jackson and the death of macrofame
> Dean, Jodi wrote:
>> Hubs are not primarily a matter of centralized content management. They occur through growth and preferential attachment.
> In human society, hubs don't "occur", they are created.
> Individuals and businesses that make money through centralized content
> management create hubs by promoting growth through preferential attachment.
> This is not some natural state of affairs, as the comment implies. It is
> a deliberate policy undertaken in order to maximize their personal incomes.
> -- Stephen
>> From: idc-bounces at mailman.thing.net [idc-bounces at mailman.thing.net] On Behalf Of Stephen Downes [stephen at downes.ca]
>> Sent: Monday, July 06, 2009 3:20 PM
>> Cc: idc
>> Subject: Re: [iDC] Michael Jackson and the death of macrofame
>> So long as there are power laws, there will be macro-celebrities.
>> [cid:part1.02090307.00010709 at downes.ca]
>> Should the network reshape into a mesh, we will see a decline of macrocelebrities.
>> [cid:part2.08070708.00060404 at downes.ca]
>> Traditional publishers and their ilk are working very hard to preserve the centralized tree-shaped network, because this is how they make their money. It comes, for the rest of us, at the cost of our voice. Others of us are working to evolve beyond centralized content management. http://www.downes.ca/presentation/225
>> -- Stephen
>> Dean, Jodi wrote:
>> It seems to me that thinking about the ways that neoliberalization and financialization have changed capitalism since Marx's initial analysis is important.
>> Didn't Kevin Kelly talk about the winner take all society? or the change in market practices such that there are a very few big winners and a large number of
>> losers (80/20 rule?)? I think I recall as well sociological analyses (Sassen?) exploring the way that former divisions between occupations/professions are now
>> divisions within them--so, there are high-powered lawyers and then lawyers who are basically piece-workers as well as those who are just mini-cogs in law
>> factories. The same holds in academia--tenured full professors at one end, adjuncts struggling to teach 6-7 courses in order to make a living at the other end.
>> I think it is useful to think today in terms of the production of debt--the US economy doesn't produce much stuff anymore (we import it); but we do produce
>> (sell/export/commodify) debt. Stuff (that we get from elsewhere) is the vehicle/raw material for the initial production of debts that can then be combined,
>> bundled, tranched, valued, sold, insured. Some companies that get involved in this fail. Some are too big to fail. Some individuals successfully produce a
>> great deal of debt (Michael Jackson), some produce smaller amounts, although this may still incase them in servitude.
>> Does it make sense today to speak of right-wing or bourgeois consciousness? What about ideology and ideological practices in which we all persist (I know, but
>> nevertheles...ala Zizek rather than the older notion that implies a division between ideology and science or true and false consciousness)?
>> Stephen Downes ~ Researcher ~ National Research Council Canada
>> http://www.downes.ca ~ stephen at downes.ca<mailto:stephen at downes.ca> ** Free Learning
> Stephen Downes ~ Research Officer ~ National Research Council Canada
> http://www.downes.ca ~ stephen at downes.ca __\|/__ Free Learning
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Stephen Downes ~ Research Officer ~ National Research Council Canada
http://www.downes.ca ~ stephen at downes.ca __\|/__ Free Learning
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