Advertisement

Springer Nature is making Coronavirus research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

The networked mind

  • 118 Accesses

  • 4 Citations

Abstract

The paper discusses the role of networks in cognition on two levels: on the level of the organization of ideas, and on the level of interpersonal communication. Any interesting system of ideas forms a network: ideas presented in a linear order (the order forced upon us by verbal expression) will necessarily convey a distorted picture of the underlying patterns of thought. Networks of ideas typically consist of a great number of nodes with just a few links, and a small number of hubs with very many links; that is, they are, to employ Albert-László Barabási’s term, “scale-free.” Barabási fits into a specific tradition: Hungarians had an early influence on the philosophy of networks, and on the philosophy of communication as developed at Marshall McLuhan’s Toronto Circle. In fact, this was the circle in which certain Hungarian and Austrian ideas on mediated collective thinking first came together—a telling testimony to the conditions of disturbed communication and idiosyncratic networking typical of East-Central Europe, past and present. The nodes-and-hubs pattern is characteristic, too, of social networks, in particular of scholarly and scientific networks. The paper analyses the role of “invisible colleges”—informal groups of scientific elites through whom the communication of information both within a field and across fields is channelled. By way of conclusion the notion of a new type of personality, the “network individual,” is discussed: the network individual is the person reintegrated, after centuries of relative isolation induced by the printing press, into the collective thinking of society—the individual whose mind is manifestly mediated, once again, by the minds of those forming his/her smaller or larger community.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Notes

  1. 1.

    As Babai writes: “E-mail is capable of creating an ultracompetitive atmosphere on a much grander scale than any medium before.” The e-mailing of important research results “may give unprecedented information advantage to a well chosen, sizable, and consequently extremely powerful elite group. The group of recipients ... may be fully capable of making rapid advances before others would even find out that something was happening. Although such elite groups belong to the very nature of the hierarchy of scientific research ..., their sheer intellectual force combined with the information advantage makes them look from outside like an impenetrable fortress.” (Babai 1990, pp. 11 f.)

  2. 2.

    I have begun using the term “network individual” to designate what I think is a new psychological type—and in a sense also the return to a primordial type of personality—in the early stages of the project communications in the 21st century (cf. http://www.socialscience.t-mobile.hu/2001_dec_konf/SUMMARIES.pdf, see also my preface to the volume Nyíri 2003, p. 16). The network individual is not the uprooted, free-floating being as depicted by Barry Wellman. Wellman uses the term “networked individualism.” His description: “People remain connected, but as individuals rather than being rooted in the home bases of work unit and household. Individuals switch rapidly between their social networks. Each person separately operates his networks to obtain information, collaboration, orders, support, sociability, and a sense of belonging.” (Wellman 2002)

References

  1. Babai, L. (1990). E-mail and the unexpected power of interaction. Technical Report CS 90–15, University of Chicago.

  2. Balázs, B. (1924). Der sichtbare Mensch oder die Kultur des Films. Vienna: Deutsch-Österreichischer Verlag.

  3. Balogh, J. (1921/1926). Voces paginarum. Beiträge zur Geschichte des lauten Lesens und Schreibens. Philologus, 82, 84–109, 202–240.

  4. Barabási, A.-B. (2002). Linked: The new science of networks. Cambridge, MA: Perseus.

  5. Barabási, A.-B. (2005). Science of networks: From society to the Web. In K. Nyíri (Ed.), A sense of place: The global and the local in mobile communication (pp. 415–429). Vienna: Passagen Verlag.

  6. Barabási, A.-B., & Albert, R. (1999). Emergence of scaling in random networks. Science, 286, 509–512.

  7. Crane, D. (1972). Invisible colleges: Diffusion of knowledge in scientific communities. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

  8. Demeter, T. (1999). From classical studies towards epistemology: The work of József Balogh. Studies in East European Thought, 51, 287–305.

  9. Döring, N., et al. (2006). Contents, forms and functions of interpersonal pictorial messages in online, mobile communication. In K. Nyíri (Ed.), Mobile understanding (pp. 197–207). Vienna: Passagen Verlag.

  10. Draaisma, D. (2004). Why life speeds up as you get older: How memory shapes our past. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  11. Dunbar, R. I. M. (1996). Grooming, gossip, and the evolution of language. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

  12. Dunbar, R. I. M. (2003). Are there cognitive constraints on an e-world? In K. Nyíri (Ed.), Mobile communication: Essays on cognition and community (pp. 57–69). Vienna: Passagen Verlag.

  13. Granovetter, M. S. (1973). The strength of weak ties. American Journal of Sociology, 78, 1360–1380.

  14. Hajnal, I. (1933). Irásbeliség, intellektuális réteg és európai fejlődés. In Károlyi Emlékkönyv. Budapest.

  15. Hajnal, I. (1952). Universities and the development of writing in the XIIth–XIIIth centuries. Scriptorum: International Review of Manuscript Studies, 6, 177–195.

  16. Hayek, F. A. (1973). Law, legislation and liberty, vol. 1: Rules and order. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

  17. Heidegger, M. (1971). On the way to language. New York: Harper & Row.

  18. James, W. (1890). The principles of psychology. New York: Henry Holt.

  19. McLuhan, M. (1964). Understanding media: The extensions of man. New York: McGraw-Hill.

  20. McLuhan, M. (1967). Eminent extrapolators. In M. McLuhan (Ed.), Verbi-voco-visual explorations. New York: Something Else Press.

  21. Milgram, S. (1967). The small-world problem. Psychology Today, 1, 60–67.

  22. Nyíri, K. (1992). Tradition and individuality: Essays. Dordrecht: Kluwer.

  23. Nyíri, K. (1994). Thinking with a word processor. In R. Casati (Ed.), Philosophy and the cognitive sciences (pp. 63–74). Vienna: Hölder-Pichler-Tempsky.

  24. Nyíri, K. (1996/1997). Wittgenstein as a philosopher of secondary orality. Grazer Philosophische Studien, 52, 45–57. Also available as an electronic document http://www.hunfi.hu/nyiri/gps97.htm.

  25. Nyíri, K. (1999). From Palágyi to Wittgenstein: Austro-Hungarian philosophies of language and communication. In P. Fleissner & K. Nyíri (Eds.), Philosophy of culture and the politics of electronic networking: Austria and Hungary: Historical roots and present developments (Vol. 1). Studienverlag/Áron Kiadó, Innsbruck/Budapest. Also available as an electronic document http://www.hunfi.hu/nyiri/Palagyi_to_Wittgenstein.pdf.

  26. Nyíri, K. (2003). Preface. In K. Nyíri (Ed.), Mobile democracy: Essays on society, self and politics (pp. 15–18). Vienna: Passagen Verlag.

  27. Surowiecki, J. (2004). The wisdom of crowds: Why the many are smarter than the few and how collective wisdom shapes business, economies, societies, and nations. New York: Random House.

  28. Watts, D. J., & Strogatz, S. H. (1998). Collective dynamics of “small-world” networks. Nature, 393, 440–442.

  29. Wellman, B. (2002). Little boxes, glocalization, and networked individualism. In M. Tanabe, P. van den Besselaar, & T. Ishida (Eds.), Digital cities II: Computational and sociological approaches (pp. 10–25). Berlin: Springer-Verlag.

  30. Wittgenstein, L. (1953). Philosophical investigations. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

  31. Wittgenstein, L. (1958). The blue and brown books. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

  32. Wittgenstein, L. (2000). Wittgenstein’s nachlass. The Bergen electronic edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  33. Yeo, R. (2001). Encyclopaedic visions: Scientific discoveries and enlightenment culture. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Download references

Author information

Correspondence to Kristóf Nyíri.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Nyíri, K. The networked mind. Stud East Eur Thought 60, 149–158 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11212-008-9044-0

Download citation

Keywords

  • Intellectual networks
  • Collective thinking
  • Theory of communication
  • Toronto school