Where You Stand is Where You Sit (In The Network)

May 5, 2010

One of the most stimulating books that I’ve read in the last couple of years is Stephan Fuchs, Against Essentialism: A Theory of Culture and Society (Cambridge, MA.: Harvard, 2001).  His basic argument is that what we know about the world is constructed in our networks. This has a lot of implications for how we see the world in general and PD in particular.

We always see the world from a particular standpoint which is defined by our network.  This is also true for how organizations gather and produce knowledge.  Which information sources do we use (and which don’t we use)?.  Homogeneous networks lead to a view of the world that tends to an uncontested realism (that’s how things are), more diverse networks lead to more cognitive flexibility.

The closer you are to something the more nuance and complexity you see, the further away the more monolithic something looks.

In terms of practical PD this leads to two requirements.  1) To what extent do we actually know what’s happening? 2)Would our perspective on the situation that we are trying to influence be different if we knew more about it?

Of course the more you know about your target network the more feasible it should be to make a difference to it.


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