Thursday, September 22, 2005

Some time ago, I did a three-part series on cognition that dealt with vertical and horizontal thinking and their relationship to the generation of insight. I haven't touched the subject much since then until today when I accidentally stumbled across a reference to the Nobel-prize winning economist Robert Lucas and his paper " The Mechanics of Economic Development" ( not available online as far as I can determine -sorry. Here's someone else applying his ideas).

Dr. Lucas argues that a high density of creative people, broadly defined as to include conceptualizers, executors and venture capital financiers, tend to form clusters with high productivity and knowledge spillovers. Ideas flow faster and translate into action and tangible goods or services more effciently as a result.

What is happening in the "cluster" ? You have networks facilitating horizontal thinking that would tend to become, in a probalistic sense, more productive as they grow more complex over time with the nodes forming ever more numerous links. Presumably, this process would be subject to the law of diminishing returns; human attention is finite. Concentration of talent in one location eventually will bid up its value elsewhere with smaller, competing, geographic clusters. Population density imposes a cost of living/lifestyle threshold that varies in terms of individual psychology. On the margins, some talent will always be deciding to leave as conditions change for the cluster.

The blogosphere is itself a " virtual cluster" with blogs tending to form " koinon" - a phenomena which often is obscured rather than revealed by blogrolls. Koinonia combined with the ubquitous use of search tools like Technorati , Google Blog Search and others would tend to distribute some of the benefits Lucas proposes, at least potentially when people begin trying harvest the blogosphere.

We're just starting to scratch the surface of what we can do - and of understanding what we're doing.


Must be the day of the Dismal Science. Dr. Von is posting on the cutting edge today -
" Econophysics":

"Further evidence of deep links between physical systems and economic models have also been discovered. In the September issue of Physics Today, an article entitled “Is Economics the Next Physical Science?” is featured. Yale professor Martin Shubik and Santa Fe Institute researchers Doyne Farmer and Eric Smith have been working on econophysics, where well-established mathematical methods used by physicists over many years have been used to establish better dynamical economic models. For example, the study of chaotic systems in physical systems as economic analogs in the sense that an economic market can follow very different paths if there are relatively minor changes in the initial conditions of the market. The mathematics used in this type of analysis follows techniques used in physics. The observation of numerous power laws in physical systems and networks (i.e. scale-free networks) over a number of years has led to more refined analysis tools, which are now being used to understand newly discovered power laws in economic theory. These power laws include analysis of price movement in stocks over short periods of time as well as income distributions in capitalistic economies. Production and distribution networks of large corporations have been shown to follow characteristic power laws associated with scale-free networks. What may seem like random trading patterns in the stock market that lead to market swings and patterns may be analogous to random motions of many-body systems that show emergent behavior. Statistical mechanics relationships are being used to study various types of economic models (since probability distribution functions rule). "

And Dan coincidentally, has a very intriguing real-life example of unanticipated emergent behavior in a virtual reality platform.

Damn, that worked out well ! My Koinon is on fire today ;o)
Some in your Koinon seem to have dropped into disuse:

‘Seeing the Forrest’ and ‘Transatlantic Intelligencer’ have both moved. You got the URL for ‘OurDocuments.gov’ wrong, ‘Kim du Toit’ has shut down, on ‘Information Processing,’ you linked to an individual post rather than the blog as a whole, you once again inputted the URL incorrectly for ‘Founder’s Constitution,’ ‘The Diplomad’ announces retirement from blogging, and several different blogs you rolled come from HNN, but you probably meant to do that.

As for the work of Dr. Von and you, I think most of us are used to the fact that a Power law distribution was taken place, and I've seen the power law curve graphed many times. I've had time to witness nodes or cluster communities take shape, and I'm not sure if I'd agree about "diminishing returns." Bonds between people online seem to form as tightly as communal bonds, and often reinforce real-world bonds, such as at social networking sites like Myspace. I’ve never seen an exodus from such sites (save a mass migration of Russians from Livejournal!), and see no reason for it to happen, because connectivity to a valued community often IS the commodity being traded.

John Allen Paulos briefly covered the territory of the econophysics discussion in chapter eight, “Connectedness and Chaotic Price Movement,” of “A Mathematician Plays The Stock Market.” He mainly focused on wealth distribution, but made it clear seemingly all interconnections stack vertically. Even words stack to the model. It’s all consumerism, basically, choices shaping choices.

1. A blogroll is not = to a koinon though a koinon is usually within it.

Some are on the blogroll simply out of reciprocity. others because I like their style but don't actually interact with them.

2. I kept The Diplomad up purposfully because I liked the author(s)and I might want to look through their archives without googling it.

3. Some of the HNN bloggers like Judith Klinghoffer are regular emailers even though we don't cross-post much. So yes, you're correct, that's intentional

4. Thanks for the URL information on the document sites. They were on my original blogroll when I first set up Zenpundit and had few other blogs on it because I was using them at the time with some students and back then they did work.

I'm aware of Dutoit closing and the other blogs moving but just haven't gotten around to fixing it. I'll try to clean it up this weekend. Housekeeping is not my strong suit and I usually end up multitasking at work when I blog or else late at night - hence the input errors.

5. I'm not sure I'd call it an " exodus" but Blogger has definitely lost - and continues to lose- highly ranked blogs ( top 5000) to Typepad and other platforms as their owners became more sophisticated in their needs. What you don't have, I grant you, are communities of networks leaving en masse like your description of the Russians on LJ.

In terms of diminishing returns, I'm curious to know how it could * not* apply with human beings - our ability to form and maintain continuous ( rather than serial) social connections that we perceive as meaningful is limited. George H.W. Bush might have a 30,000 member Xmas card list but I'd say that's an anamoly

I think that your "koinon" is applicable to only one set of bloggers: Those who purposely strive for such a limited connectivity. The limit might be "success" or merely a comfortable niche. I.e., the gatekeeper or link-whore model or the conclave model.

The first subset utilizes inter-linking (including blogrolls) to gain visibility or visitors; the second uses those two linking processes to bind a close-knit (and often small, insular) community of friends and family together in one big group hug.

The "koinon" is largely superficial and transient in the first subset, subject to trends in the MSM, politics, whimsy, backscratching or catfights, etc. The second "koinon" is more substantial, although it may be just as superficial if the members of that set do not know each other outside the Blogosphere.

I suppose the gatekeeper / link-whore model is only a pseudo-koinon; its members share only one type of thing in common: a selfish desire to be read, or to advance in the hierarchy, or to be admired. The result is not "fellowship" so much as a conglomerate which forms from the pursuit of self-interest. Any stress on the system (such as changing meme trends, personal disputes) can cause the conglomerate to fracture.

The second subset may form a real type of koinon or another type of pseudo-koinon. If the group hug is there in the form of a therapy group for each individual member, then the result is similar to the result of the first subset's interactions (because the primary interest is self-interest.) However, if the conclave has formed around similar deeply-formed interests, the result might be a real koinon.

I suppose what I'm thinking is this:

The true "structure" of the blogosphere isn't reflected well by blogrolls -- which are quite limited or else much too complex and a bit random -- nor by interlinked posts, but by the actual interests of those who read blogs. E.g., I would consider many bloggers to be in my koinon -- or one of my koinonia -- who I never or rarely link, who aren't on my blogroll (but may be in my browser's bookmarks), but who I read regularly. I may post entries to my blog which are directly intersecting with items posted elsewhere without linking those items: they were inspiration or a stating of something I've somewhat considered already or had a loose association with my ideas and stimulated me. So the true koinon is not reflected so much in how things are posted (or, in the hardcopy of the internet) so much as in which things are being read on a regular basis (our use of the hardcopy) -- this is an outside-looking-in perspective of koinonia, which I think can't be seen very well by looking at the itty-bitty segment of the Internet that is called "linkage." In fact, I doubt that any hardcopy can ever represent well the actual koinonia that exist.

Searches such as "5gw" on Google Blog Search might provide very broad, very faint, very dotted outlines of koinonia, or of potential koinonia. Or else, they provide only an interpretation of the interests which influence the development of koinonia without pointing at the koinonia themselves.


Interestingly, the word "koine" (though not related?) means a lingua franca and comes from the Greek for "common." (Which, in one respect at least, is different than the idea of a "fellowship" that is separated out of the conglomerate.)

Also, I find it interesting that when chaos theory first became a fad, the idea behind the chaos was, loosely speaking, "complexity impossible to pigeon-hole" (despite the concurrent notion of strange attractors), and that nowadays people are wanting to define to the iota every part of the structure of chaotic systems.
Hi Curtis

Jeff Medcalf also had a take on Koinonia and blogrolls:


I agree that multiple definitions of koinon exist and I'm probably using it in a narrow sense.

I don't agree however that contact outside the virtual universe is required. I've had an excellent intellectual synergy with Dr. Barnett, whom I've never met ( though I've talked to his people on occasion via phone). Likewise with Dave, Marc, Bruce, Jeff, Dan, Stu, the gang at Coming Anarchy - there are times when a nice conceptual resonance is flowing.

Likewise I have some nonblogging readers like Jacob H. who are exceptionally insightful but elect to make most of their contributions via private email. This would fit in with your "reading blog" thesis which I think is quite correct.

Dr. Von, on the other hand, I've known for several decades and was glad to see someone with his background and intelligence decide to start blogging. In this case the blogs are simply adjunctive to an existing friendship but one that facilitates exchanging ideas despite fairly complex work/family schedules.
Mark, I suppose "outside the Blogosphere" would include email correspondence or other types of correspondence beyond mere mentions in one another's blog posts or listings on blogrolls.

Are you familiar with XFN™, the XHTML Friends Network? The network uses the rel="" attribute for links for describing relationships between linking parties. It's an interesting idea, although it doesn't seem to have taken off and, again, it only works when individuals choose to form such koinonia.

Eventually, I suppose some entity will build a "living" database of all internet referrals and entry sites and from that build a better sense of koinonia that are forming, evolving, and dissolving than can be found from a study of blogrolls or search engines....

No, I haven't heard of these - Mrs. Zenpundit is currently learning HTML/XHTML etc. so I am going to pass that reference o to her, winning me some all important brownie points ;o)

It does sound like the basic premise for blogospheric analysis or even intel analysis. The latter would require some kind of involuntary and subtle tagging to work.
Sorry, Mark,

I think you meant to cite the Law of Diminishing Marginal Utility. In that case, there’s no dispute.

Hope I didn’t leave you hanging too long. I tend to seed comments all over without returning to engage in a discussion board, kind of like Kasperov playing a thousand kids in a chess wall.

I don’t see any merit to claims that Malthusian catastrophes are coming to these blog communities any time in the near future, because I see no evidence that any growth factors are remaining constant. What I see is a developing world that hasn’t found our informal community yet, and a lot of social contacts bringing people in. I only see production moving to the right as blogging becomes a more beneficial activity.
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