Archive for May, 2009

 

May 26 2009

Nodes’ Codes

by at 3:55 pm

In “Nexus,” Buchanan explains how small-world networks are often created formally, with informal and random links providing the crucial extra connections. The global network of states, financial institutions, and NGOs share this same formal/informal structure. The world functions as a global network because of the varying degrees of formality offered by these nodes. Without each structure in place, we would cease to live in a “small” world. Even though these nodes bring a necessary level of randomness to the global network, they were not random in their creation. John Agnew writes in “The New Global Economy”: “Globalization, therefore, did not just happen and it is not synonymous with the neo-liberal policies instituted by many national governments in the 1980s. It required considerable political stimuation without which technology and economic stimuli to increased international economic interdependence could not have taken place. (Agnew 8).

States have a very formal networking structure that is largely based on trade (and therefore financial institutions). Long histories of alliances and trade routes have led us to an established social order. The G8, United Nations, NAFTA, NATO, and the European Union are all examples of the formalization of these networks. These are slow moving beasts of globalization that are often historical accidents as much as logical alliances. However, they are all based on the relationship among states and leave little room for informal networking connections, so crucial for small-world networks, to develop.

Here the financial institutions and NGOs hold so much promise. Their structures are inherently more random, even though they often develop from state relationships. For example, I worked with Sister Cities International over the last several years. Originally started by President Eisenhower to reunited Americans of German heritage with German citizens after World War II, the organization now works on “twinning” cities around the world in hundreds of combinations. Sometimes these cities are twinned because of heritage, sometimes because of trade opportunities, and sometimes because of past conflicts. Very recently, Sister Cities received a large grant from the Gates foundation to work on twinning more cities in Sub-Sahara Africa. This massive network is highly unorganized, yet was created because of a highly organized development at the state level–World War II. Financial institutions have given it a new goal that will result in many fantastic opportunities for the people brought together randomly thanks to the fortunes generated by a technology boom that largely missed their corner of the world.

Financial institutions are the pivotal connection between the formal state nodes and the random NGOs. They are regulated by laws, both national and international, but are working for the benefit of the private sector which is only interested in profit and will seek it anywhere. All the nodes of this global network expand in size and influence together because of their interconnections. NGOs will expand the breadth of financial networks, while new state-level agreements will allow more NGOs to find support. The opportunity for combining different nodes is nearly endless.

Sister Cities is an example of a network within a network. As the number of NGOs grow at an accelerating rate, combined with the power of the internet to find the connections between all of these organizations, the efficiency of the network will continue to be enhanced. I think this spells good things for the bottom billion, even though I believe our formal institutions have failed them in the past. Today, trade and therefore economic development can occur from the bottom up instead of from the top down. That’s a global network worth expanding.

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May 26 2009

Nodes of power

by at 3:46 pm

There is an undeniable interdependence in the global network between states, financial institutions and NGOs, but this network is not the same internationally. Different states and regions have different connection strengths between these nodes – and some networks are more susceptible to changes from certain nodes. This comes from the uneven global development that Stiglitz writes of extensively. The divide between rich and poor countries that he writes about in “The New Global Economy” means what happens within the United States’ nodes, for example, may directly affect India, a lower-middle income country. But what happens in India may not always directly affect the U.S. It comes down to economic strength, political might and histories of power.

That said, regardless of the geographic section of the network, what happens in one node inevitably affects the others. Here the state and financial institutions seem to have more power than the NGO node, following the politics of globalization.

Consider state priorities – if a country’s foreign policy identifies another country as a vested interest, NGOs may take more notice and begin or increase work in that country. NGOs will be further compelled to do so because financial institutions are more likely to fund projects. The results are widespread, including cash and human resources capital flowing into the selected country. These resources then begin to affect that country’s network – though the results could be good or bad, as Collier and Stiglitz both note.

NGO work in Afghanistan highlights this. The U.S. took an active interest in investing in redevelopment projects and money was thrown into Afghanistan as NGOs flooded the country to build roads and schools, bolster civic society and more. These resources have helped many in Afghan society, but also have helped restart the countries poppy production. Both the good and bad have an impact on Afghanistan and its place in the global network.

The opposite also would hold true of nodes affecting each other – if a state does not hold another country as a high priority, financial institutions are less likely to fund projects and therefore many NGOs either must seek funding elsewhere or move on to another region. Cuba is a good example of this. Because of the U.S. embargo on most goods, services and travel, financial institutions would not consider funding projects by NGOs, who are not allowed to operate within the country.

Given the interdependence, the question becomes how to use the global network for good. States and financial institutions do hold much of the power, and this can be a problem if NGOs are beholden to politics and at the mercy of institutions with an agenda. Decades of top-down World Bank development projects show this is usually spectacularly unsuccessful and may be ruinous to local populations.

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May 26 2009

Pace and Place

by at 1:53 pm

Scott Storper and Michael Storper explore the ways in which a node can be affected by its geographical place in the world. The externalities that can occur from neighboring nations’ networks can affect a country’s economic and social status. This may be one more reason that Collier’s theory about the precarious situation of land-locked countries has validity. Scott Storper asserts that agglomeration based on the role of the “region” allows for positive effects of urbanization. He speaks directly to complexity theory in that the more tightly-drawn the network, the better chance of connectivity through weak links to a greater market.

As an example of the node/language of a network, I found that the professional networking site “LinkedIn” has their own “Network Statistics” tab, in which they show “Your Network of Trusted Professionals.” Continue Reading »

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May 26 2009

Nodes and Links in Networks_Reflection Paper #3

by at 12:12 pm

There are many things we cannot live without and we also cannot leave the connection with, while we live through our lives. Therefore, we, in many times, don’t recognize the importance of the entities of such things surrounding us. As we cannot live without water and air, the existence of human relationships is impossible without nodes and links.

In “Nexus”, what Buchanan focuses specially on is a “simplicity” of the networks. According to him, these complicated networks connecting the worlds can simply be explained with several mathematical formulas. The world, from his point of view, is a small network society where people can get in touch with each other after passing only a few bridges. His frequent expressions of “small,” “narrow” or “simple” in this book proves his idea of seeing our world as a small world. However, can we use this theory to explain the entire patterns of world networks?

I guess it is very dangerous to generalize the certain pattern as a whole. According to Barabaci in “Linked -The New Science of Networks,” he suggests the concept of “Scale-free Network” that every node has similar numbers of links, and it is possible to connect to each other if one node has at least one link. Also, when the number of links is increased, the distance between the nodes is decreased.

The number of links connecting the real world, however, very varies by nodes. For example, there are some people in human societies maintaining wider and broader networks than others. With the same idea, there are certain websites people click more than others as well. The most popular search engine “Google” is a great example of this. Google becomes the top search engine across the world even though it came after many others like AtaVista or Inktomi. Barabaci called such phenomenon of nodes’ preferring certain nodes as a “Preferential Attachment.”

States, financial institutes, and NGOs, as the nodes which are the center of each network, are also connecting to and impacting one another even though where their nodes are located in is different. In addition, the links spreading out from the nodes can be overlapped, crossed, or sometimes linearly moved forward with the links from other nodes. Such links are playing an important role as the brides to connect to other nodes. Therefore, these architectures are influencing and influenced by each other, and their relationships can not be existed alone.

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May 26 2009

Which nodes create successful networks?

by at 10:56 am

Nodes in a network often reveal the network’s infrastructure and focus. Globalization seeks to restructure social, political and economic relationships between individuals, businesses and even states. Depending upon where the focus lies, the results and system’s structure can look very different. These factors (politics, economic relationships, and social foundations) can change the perception of the actors involved in the network and drive the network to success or failure. Globalization means these networks at their very roots are changing while at the same time they are being redeveloped.

Globalization is highly dependent on the interactions of states and other political systems.

For example, states often have control over the development of cities through restrictions and policies. Allen J. Scott and Michael Storper point this out in their essay, Regions, Globalization and Development when they talk about the benefits and sacrifices of urbanization (pg. 5). Scott and Storper identify the problem with “countries that urbanize too much and too fast, generating “macrocephalic” urban systems consisting of a few abnormally large cities in each country” which in turn put too much strain on the economy and the developmental network (pg. 5).

Macrocephaly is an abnormal largeness of the head. Something with a head too big for its body can loose its balance and result in a less manageable climate. All parts of a body must have equal function.

Thumbtack Press

Thumbtack Press

However in most cases the “nodes” are arranged by economic institutions. They often “entail the formation of routines of economic behavior that potentiate and shape activities such as production, entrepreneurship and innovation” (Scott and Storper, pg. 23). Because economic institutions are often external and are not tied to one area they have little connection to the community in which they have landed or its infrastructure. There is no link from one to another. In fact often countries are chosen because of their proximity to other countries and the number of workers available. Money drives this network. Continue Reading »

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May 26 2009

by at 2:38 am

Development Vs Sustainable Development

I have carefully read Chapter 5-7 of the Globalization and Its Discontents. As a witness of the gradual development of market economy in China, it is easy for me to understand that why Russia’s transition has failed and China’s path of gradualism is a “better road to the market”. Stiglitz did a detailed argument of Washington consensus’ failure in helping Russia’s transition from arranged economy to marketed economy. But in his comparison of Russia’s failure and China’s succeed, he only told part of the story of China’s development.  

 

First, I do not agree with his calculation of development. Stiglitz approached the gains and loses of development by counting on GDP growth and average income, but what’s missed here is the trade-off of the economic growth, such as environmental costs, decline of social morality understand market competition and the fragile social stability for the lack of political democracy.  

 

China’s economic development is gradual but aggressive, its over-speed development at the cost of sustainability is a time bomb for the people and a temporary shelter for political conservatives. In the long-run, China’s exploitation and abuse of natural/human resource can hardly be paid by its capital development. Unlike the industrialization of UK and US which used early modern technology, China’s industrialization has been conducted through contemporary technology that provides higher quality for construction along with larger damage.  For example, the Three Gorges Dam project is owned and operated by the state, which has the administration power and technique resources. According to Stiglitz, the outcome of the project as economic development is creating jobs, enriching energy resource, driving GDP growth and probably increase the average income. However, what’s behind the picture is millions of people have been relocated by the government in five years, the ecological change and potential natural disaster like flooding and earthquake, and most importantly the redistribution of wealth that can only deepen the gap between rich and poor. All those elements are ignored in Stiglitz’ methodology of calculating development.  The Three Gorges Dam is a reflection of the unsustainable development of China in the last 20 years.  

Second, Stiglitz harshly criticized the fruitlessness of Russia’s democratization, but he forgot to mention that China’s stagnation in political reformation is fed by its economic development.  The high tax rate is used to keep its over-size, inefficient government rather than for social welfare. China’s education fund is less than one percent of its GDP, lower than Uganda. You will know that corruption in China is no better than in Russia if you read Losing the New China: A Story of American Commerce, Desire and Betrayal by Ethan Gutmann and Guanxi:Microsoft, China, and Bill Gates’s Plan to Win the Road Ahead by Robert Buderi and Gregory Huang. 

 

A weak democratic power is hardly comparable to a strong tyrannical power in terms of harm. Washington again, I believe, has lost the New China. China’s economic development has become a powerful leverage in foreign policy, which has been proved by the recent visit to China by Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton. The WashingtonPost has put the Pelosi’s disappointing visit to China as the headline for yesterday’s paper and quickly took it off for whatever reason.  Any outside influence to China’s democracy seems weaker and more futile than ever.

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May 21 2009

Reflection Paper-2

by at 5:01 pm

           First of all, I would like to mention a little bit about the Stiglitz’s book. Although most westerners think that South Korea is one of the countries where successfully overcame the Asian financial crisis of 1990s, domestic people do not entirely feel that way. Rather, we think we are still struggling for the price of wrong decisions made at that time. Most of all, we opened our financial market too early. We were not ready at all to compete in the global market but we were forced to open the market by international organizations such as IMF and WTO. Right after the openness, as Stiglitz described as well, many domestic companies had to be exposed to the hunt of speculative hot money. Some bigger companies were sold to foreign investors and even to hedge funds.

Those investors did not care long term growth of a company. Their only concern is to retrieve money as soon as possible with maximum interest. The tactics they used to maximize return were reducing cost by cutting human capital, selling valuable equities separately, and paying dividend to shareholders instead of reinvesting money for R&D. They worked only for shareholders not for the domestic workers/economy. Speculative money might not so formidable in bigger economies, but it has enormous power in smaller economies. Although Korean GDP has grown steadily, the number of jobs did not increase in Korea. Neither the quality of most people’s life improved except top 10%. The GDP growth was entirely due to the several big exporting companies such as Samsung, which took advantage of low-valued currency. Through the experience, I learned that numbers do not representing the reality of people’s life in a country.

           Let me move to network issue now. I think that a person cannot exist without networks. In other words, a social individual is formed by the networks which he/she is engaged in. I get ideas directly from people around me. Although the internet, newspaper, and books are common sources of achieving ideas, my communities still affect immensely the choice of information. Consciously or unconsciously, we are absorbing what other people around us read, think, see and eat. Since the IT revolution, the Internet enhanced the networks significantly. The communities a person associated with have been diversified and the speed of information exchange has remarkably quickened.

            As far as the development strategies concerned in the globalization, I think we need deeper understanding about other countries/cultures to build up a true corporation. Fortunately we have the Internet now that has much improved the accessibility to various kind of information. However, it still has limitation that there is no efficient way to exchange opinions between English users and non-English speakers yet. Furthermore, traditional media are closing many of their foreign bureaus because of current economic difficulties. I am worrying there would be fewer voices available to promote mutual understanding in the short term. However, I believe the ICT proliferation can promote the global communication in the end.

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May 21 2009

Kaleidoscopic Structures

by at 4:59 pm

What is my intellectual network like?
Well, it looks more like a kaleidoscope than an easily sketched-out graph.  My strongest intellectual ties are certainly my professors, my classmates, and the authors I read.  The thing is that my classes and reading assignments not only extremely diverse to begin with, but are constantly changing by the weeks and semesters.  So while one connection lights up with intensity for one class session, it dwindles to a thread by the next class.  That’s sort of what grad school is all about though – collecting a million of these loose connections through all of the reading writing we do.  On top of CCT, I’ve got my work connections (which are more professional and practical) and my friends & family (which are entirely practical).  When I talk to my coworkers or friends & family about my school, I’m usually humbled when I try to make connections between my studies and real life.  It usually takes a bit more explaining than a business or law school student would need.

My family, friends, and coworkers acted like anchors with a sort of leash attached to me. From there I could go exploring new and radical theories, ideas, and frameworks that I might or might not be able to apply to my life practically.  The experience rewards me in the form of a liberal mind and greatly increased analytical and expression skills.  But I always come back to the common set of professional values of my coworkers and real, down-to-earth values of my friends and family.

And how does this provide insight in the development of the Washington Consensus?
This question gets to the heart of CCT as an academic program.  Like we discussed in class, those involved in the Washington Consensus had a very tight-knit group that, for decades, rewarded conformity and scorned diversity (unless of course it was the kind of diversity that looked like dollar signs). So for them, sailing away to explore new ideas and concepts wasn’t worthwhile if they were making good money just keeping with the status quo.  No one was creative or influential enough to successfully pull their closely-connected nodes in another direction.

What new development strategies could change this? And how can they be encouraged?

Expand the network!
The more people involved, the more influence can be exerted on a small world like the Washington Consensus.  Local stakeholders know their communities best.

Use what’s already there! It’s harder to start from scratch, than to just tweak the current incentive system. Let them keep playing the game and making money, just level the playing field a skosh.

Sunlight is the best disinfectant! What better for a kaleidoscope than sunlight? Bad PR can be more harmful to profits than a touchy-feely development project.

Spotlights are even better!
Give great PR and buzz to a few firms and projects doing their jobs well.  Remember when Collier got the UN to focus on the “bottom billion”? Remember when it became cool to be “green”?  Leaders need to create the same buzz around fair and successful development projects.

How in the world do these strategies tie into my own intellectual network?
Great question.  Maybe somehow this idea (from me as a node) will cause a tiny oscillation in the small world of CCT and somehow loose connections between a faculty member and Kevin Bacon then Kevin Bacon and Robert Zoellick will miraculously change the direction of international development practices.  Okay okay, so maybe the Kevin Bacon part was a little far fetched….

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May 21 2009

Cast a Wide Net

by at 4:15 pm

An officer in the UNC Young Democrats for four years. 

A student member of the ACLU in my undergrad days. 

A frequent participant in anti-war demonstrations.

A vehement campaigner for “the left.”

            

All of the statements above capture me (now or in the past) and the experiences that have shaped my intellectual ideas for much of my life.  A child of two liberal-minded parents, I grew up surrounded by active political minds and eventually fostered my own networks among politicos working under the ideological umbrella that I supported.   As I progressed through undergrad, I became particularly passionate in my anti-war ideas and increasingly critical of national security surveillance measures.  My network perpetuated itself and I, admittedly, did little to try to understand the other side.  In this way, I was steadfast in my ideas, but the source of my ideas was limited.

An interesting shift occurred when I moved to DC and started working at CPASS, an organization addressing both “peace” and “security.”  In my job, I accrued new sources for ideas on such matters through the people I met – professors, students, staff and visiting scholars.  Especially notable are individuals from backgrounds I never really had to get to know in the past.  Exposure to the military personnel and homeland security experts affiliated with CPASS expanded my network and thus the individuals from whom I could draw my ideas on subjects such as surveillance and war.  While I remain strong in my beliefs, I am happy to report that my intellectual ideas are more informed because of this expanded network.  By allowing myself to work in an environment where I may not agree with every opinion, I forced myself to consider the source behind other stances.  Hearing stories about what keeps soldiers motivated, talking with generals about their time in service and attending lectures by Bush Administration officials lets me attempt to bridge the gap between my thinking and theirs.  In this way, expanding my network – be it through weak ties such as attending a lecture or strong co-worker relations – can make my ideas more balanced and lead me to sympathize with positions I never would have considered in my earlier bubble.  

Reflecting upon how my experience at CPASS altered my once-unalterable stance by allowing me to gain outside perspectives, I feel particularly drawn to Mark Buchanan’s discussion of groupthink within certain networks.  Buchanan describes groupthink as an incident in which a group strives to reach a consensus and, once they do, dissenters are hesitant to voice their opinion for fear of being ostracized or anger from that group.[1]  The idea of groupthink can also be identified in how the Washington Consensus came about and perpetuated itself.  In Globalization and its Discontents, Joseph Stiglitz described just this kind of groupthink within the development of the Washington Consensus, pointing out that “alternative opinions were not sought” and that “open, frank discussion was discouraged.”[2]  Instead of opening up and learning how to improve programs, the Washington Consensus excluded the critical “outsider” and cut off links to networks outside their own.  Instead of considering all avenues and seeking input from a multitude of experts,  

As we discussed in class, the Washington Consensus and other development programs need to branch out of their cozy networks.  Instead of a “rich get richer” scenario as presented by Buchanan, in which well known sources (or “links”) are reinforced as well known as the network grows, development programs should actively pursue lesser-known sources of information and ideas.   Development programs could even follow suit of the Obama Administration’s call for public input on issues such as cyber security during their 60-Day Cyber Security study.  Casting a wide net allows may bring in a duds – but could also lay the framework for bridging gaps between key networks.  Just as I learned the merits of welcoming alternative ideas, development programs should learn from the failures of closed networks and open up in the name of innovation.

Groupthink : www.flatrock.org.nz


[1] Buchanan, Mark.  Nexus: Small Worlds and the Groundbreaking Science of Networks.  W.W. Norton and Co.: New     York (2002).  P 115.

[2] Stiglitz, Joseph.  Globalization and Its Discontents.  W.W. Norton and Co.:  New York (2003).  P xiv.

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May 21 2009

between arc and node

by at 4:13 pm

I often tend to isolate myself, and, subsequently, my ideas. But upon reading Nexus, I was reminded that even if I were to keep totally to myself, without any social relationships at all, I would not exist in a networkless vacuum.When I began to map out a rough network of my intellectual life, I found that I was focusing on those close to me, and that I was forming a very dense web, populated mostly by tight clusters of individuals. These clusters reflected the groups with which I have been involved, including my family, teachers from high school through college and graduate school, and some of my closest friends. It was only at these last nodes of my network, the friends that I have gathered from our collaborations in music, poetry, art, research, and social life, with whom I remain in touch, that some of the weaker links between members of my network began to emerge, filling in many voids in my network.

I remembered more of these clusters, of which I had been a part or to which I had been loosely linked. I found relationships between members of my family, for example, and close friends, with whom I had ended up at the same school, through whom I had met a close but geographically distant friend. I saw the sudden emergence of institutions I had thought external to my network. I realized, looking back at the myriad examples of small worlds and networks in Nexus, that not only are we each linked as human beings through these relationships, but that the same kinds of relationships exist between disciplines like the music, poetry, art, and research of which I had been thinking. The balance between random chaos and perfect order to which Buchanan so often refers became, itself, a powerful, beautiful inspiration.

However, I was also struck by a peculiar turn of rhetoric that kept slipping into my own conceptualization of these relationships. Once I had begun thinking in terms of networks and complexity, I found it hard to break with the spatial metaphors on which such terms often draw: network itself is fundamentally a spatial-visual construct. Recognizing this, I tried to become more critical of my own use of these terms. It is possible, after all, that even a “groundbreaking” theory can lock its proponents into rigid ways of thinking; how much more possible is this for a persuasive and elegant theory that very closely resembles a theory of the universal? Though complexity is a seductive and powerful mode of analysis, avoiding many of the traps of both strictly linear, causative logic and “chaos theory”, it still has its faults, and the reliance on spatial metaphors to explain abstractions is one of these.

There is a strong sense that those who took place in the negotiations to form the Washington Consensus used a much less densely-populated network than they could have, where either connections or actors relevant to the negotiations and to their outcomes were ignored, relegated to a void. Concurrently, the powerful institutional forces represented themselves as central to the network of negotiators and decision-makers, taking western liberal-democracy capitalism as an ideal economic model to which any country in crisis could aspire, although in spatial-metaphor terms, their model was largely peripheral to those towards whom the outcomes of their decisions were directed. Finally, there were connections both formed and broken during these proceedings, including the important ideological connections between, for example, fiscal policy discipline with privatization.

It seems that the most critical engagement we can make by using network theory and a view towards holistic complexity in terms of analysis and policy recommendations is to refine already-existing networks, finding what we had missed in earlier descriptions, and adjusting our views of the underlying structure of relations to reflect what actually exists, so that our implicit critiques and ideological assertions can be most effectively and accurately applied. In other words, our process must always be a dynamic one, not only stepping back to see a bigger picture (so to speak), but also moving closer to examine subtle details, and changing our perspective “horizontally” as well, so that we do not rely on a fixed center in our conception of the socio/political/economic world network, but are able to recognize when such centers shift, and to react with grace.

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