Network metaphor

Metaphors we live by, George Lakoff, Mark Johnson, 2003 [1980]

Reading 'Metaphors we live by' reminded me of some of the difficulties of working with network models of the economy. A network is a theoretical structure composed of nodes and links between them. Often individual people, groups or organizations are defined as nodes and the relations between them are the links. But it is possible - and sometimes useful - to define things the other way around. This basically means that looking at networks often presupposes that form or structure is more important than content.

At the same time, talking about networks is a way of understanding any number of things in the world around us, i.e. we apply the network to many different kinds of content and expect to understand that content better. Often the qualitative aspects of nodes and links are just as interesting and relevant as their structure. Incorporating these aspects into a formal model of networks seems like a theoretical/logical contradiction. However, it fits an intuitive understanding model of networks better. This may be because the internet and the World Wide Web - and our own personal experiences with it - shape the meaning of 'network' more strongly than the formal mathematical definition.

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