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«Andrés Gregor Zelman The University of Amsterdam 2002 ii Mediated Communication and the Evolving Science System: Mapping the Network Architecture of ...»

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Two central perspectives are juxtaposed in this analysis: those that concern processes of symbolic exchange and those that model these architectural, network and systemic relationships (and thereby also processes of symbolic exchange). Information as a ‘stock’ concept can be understood here as a reservoir of symbolic meaning, and communication ‘flow’ as the process through which meaning is achieved and knowledge produced. Media use can be perceived to entail at least three distinct components: a communicating party, a communicated substance, and a communications channel. A wide range of theories from Communication Studies and Science & Technology Studies are employed to provide a backdrop on which to describe the symbolic dimension of communicative processes evident in collective research endeavours, and to provide context to the modelling approaches from Science & Technology Studies used to compare these processes in their architectural, network and systemic capacities.

It is critical that the present study be understood as an exploration of several distinct metric techniques in juxtaposition to a theoretical framework through which architectural, network, and systemic features of mediated knowledge production are identified and categorized. The problematic presented by the centrality of media to processes of knowledge production can be addressed by integrating these different features of academic communication. We can understand all social communication to entail architectural features inasmuch as they are treated as events which share certain qualities; for example, communications generally have an advent, a termination, a dynamic interplay between actants, and a delineated communications system.

Medium Theory is used to ground this perspective and will be described in detail in the next chapter.

The network features of the SOEIS communication system can be understood to highlight the dynamic interplay of symbolic exchange over the time dimension outlined by the architectural parameters. By examining the network features of the SOEIS research project we gain an understanding of how networked communication has changed over the time period of the project, and how this is a collective result of individual actions. Actor Network Theory is used to ground the network analyses.

Finally, the examination for systemic features aims to capture that element of the communication system which remains above and beyond the control of individual actors. That is, the collective research endeavour is understood to operate on a macro level which remains above and beyond the full comprehension of any individual in the group. The systemic features of the SOEIS provide a unique frame of reference not obtainable through architectural and network analyses. Actor Network Theory and Systems Theory are also addressed in more detail in the following chapter. This combination of metric techniques and grounded theorizing will provide a unique means of mapping and understanding mediated processes of intellectual development.

Thus, the goal of this research is to explore the significance of symbolic exchange, the centrality of media in this process, and to represent the architectural, network, and systemic differences between print and electronic media used to communicate similar, but differently coded information. The challenge then is whether symbolic and modelling approaches can be fruitfully combined to enhance our understanding of the 10 roles and biases of particular media in processes of knowledge production. The following analysis is therefore best understood by the reader as an exploratory approach whereby a number of overlapping but significant communicative domains of the SOEIS project are compared to expand our understanding of the processes of mediated knowledge production. Through exploring and comparing these processes a methodological foundation is established, upon which further analyses can be pursued. A central aim is therefore to contribute to both Communication Studies and Science & Technology Studies through this interrelation.

Dissertation Structure

The dissertation is organized into three main sections: Context, Analysis, and Reflection. The concepts of mediated communication and knowledge production have been introduced in this introductory chapter – both assist in describing the extent of the current problematic concerning the changes in the nature of mediated communication and the subsequent changes in knowledge production that this implies. Similar analyses that examine this phenomenon have also been reviewed and challenged. Importantly, this chapter has placed this analysis into an existing discourse whereby social communication can increasingly be mapped using metric approaches. This introductory chapter traced the metric approach from early bibliometric concordance techniques from the scribal and hermeneutic traditions, through modern textual analysis and visualization techniques, as well as scientometric techniques, and new emergent cybermetric forms of analysis. In this way the theoretical and metric priorities outlined in the following chapters were introduced and contextualized.

In Chapter II: Theoretical Grounding we will explore a range of theoretical positions from both Communication Studies and Science & Technology Studies inasmuch as they concern the two central concepts of mediated communication and knowledge production. The chapter outlines Medium Theory as the conceptual foundation upon which the theoretical rationale rests; this provides an architectural metaphor to aid in conceptualizing processes of knowledge production. From Communication Studies, Stucturalist, Poststructuralist, and Structurational theories of meaning and networked relationships are interpreted in light of their descriptions of the ‘locus’ of meaning.

From Science & Technology Studies, Actor Network Theory and Systems Theory approaches to mapping network and systemic relations are explored and then explained to contextualize the metric analyses. These claims are compiled into a general model: the theoretic triad of Architecture – Network – System, through which the subsequent empirical analyses are performed and interpreted.

In Chapter III: Materials & Methodologies, the Self-Organization of the European Information Society (SOEIS) research project will be introduced as the case study selected for this analysis. Importantly, this third chapter conceptually binds the theoretical priorities of the analysis with the empirical materials and metric approaches to be used in the analysis. Here the metric approaches are described with particular attention paid to the role of the architectural, network, and systemic concepts exhibited by each approach.

11 The Analysis section of the dissertation consists of four chapters. Each chapter has as its focus an empirical analysis of one of four isolated communicative domains of the SOEIS research project: print communication, electronic communication, journal publication, and mailing list environment, respectively. Chapter IV: Textual Analysis of Print Communication examines the dynamics of print exchange in the context of the SOIES project and reveals patterns of codification of scientific information, networks of cognitive orientation, and the systemic dimensions of print word distribution. Similarly, Chapter V: Textual Analysis of Electronic Communication examines the dynamics of electronic writing as exhibited by the SOEIS community – here the results are compared with the results of the print analysis and are shown to exhibit different modes scientific information codification, different networks of cognitive bias, and different overall word distributions.

In Chapter VI: Analysis of Journal Publication examines the changes in the publication patterns of the SOEIS community on both the project level (article generation) and field level (the journal environment) and reveals both similarities and differences in the collective cognitive orientation of both the cited dimension (comprised of publications by the SOEIS community) and the citing dimension (those that cite SOEIS relevant materials) over the five year scope of analysis. Finally, in Chapter VII: Analysis of Mailing List Environment the network dynamics of eleven Science & Technology Studies and Self-Organization Theory oriented mailing lists are compared in terms of their individual threaded messaging behaviour to reveal that the SOEIS related project mailing lists function like field level lists, despite exhibiting project level dynamics.

The final section of the dissertation: Reflection is comprised of two chapters. Chapter VIII: Integration & Conclusions will seek commensurability between the theoretic lens and empirical methods employed herein, and will reflect upon the original research questions and expectations. Finally, Chapter IX: Discussion & Relevance will describe challenges associated with integrating symbolic and modelling approaches and will provide both suggestions for future researchers in the field as well as suggest the design parameters of a modularized software program to aid in future analyses. We thereby readdress the central question of the Dissertation: do print and electronic media foster unique types of media environment, and are different modes of knowledge production and meaningful exchange thereby implied with each medium and its use?

A common thread through the chapters is the triad of architectural, network, and systemic features of mediated knowledge production. In this way the challenges associated with comparing symbolic and modelling approaches to understanding communication are addressed and the critical differences between Mode I and Mode II knowledge production identified.

–  –  –


Three theoretical bodies are central here and a number of periphery works are addressed. Briefly stated, Medium Theory comprises the theoretical backbone for the analysis through the concept of the History of Mediation,1 Actor Network Theory provides both a network metaphor and a background in mapping scientific research by means of textual analysis, and Systems Theory provides a dynamic network perspective that enables a macro view of co-ordinated actions and actors. These theoretical traditions each focus on the problematic of modelling aspects of mediated communication in contrast to symbolic approaches. The concepts introduced herein are each relevant to the analysis as they address the centrality of media in processes of knowledge production.

In addition to this core theoretical triad, the framework is enriched with Structuralist, Poststructuralist and Structurational theories of meaning, and by extension their theories concerning networked social relations. These latter traditions provide this thesis with a range of discourses which problematize the notion of mediated communication in terms of its symbolic dimensions, rather than modelling. The general theoretical lens is thus comprised of a significant range of theoretical positions which each address mediated communication (in its myriad forms) as central to processes of knowledge production.

Each of these theoretical positions is relevant as a perspective that addresses the nature of human interaction, and each employs network metaphors to describe patterns of social relation. They are collectively employed for this analysis as they help frame the types of questions we can ask about processes of mediated communication. Individually they offer original insight into the dynamic nature of networked communication, and together they provide a cohesive framework for this analysis.

Two important concepts will aid the reader through theoretical arguments below. The first is the History of Mediation. Medium Theory argues that media use is both an epochal phenomenon (oral, print, electronic stages through history) and a transformative phenomenon, in that each new predominant medium must contend with the impact of the former. This theoretic claim was challenged and expanded in The History of Mediation: Mapping the Dialectic between Surface Interaction and Deep Structure. (Zelman 1997). There it was argued that the history of media usage be viewed heuristically as having two distinct historical trajectories: a history of social relations (interactions) and a history of symbolic development (or knowledge production). Here this distinction is used to demarcate communicative processes 1 The theoretical lens described in this chapter is a synthesis of a larger theoretical project developed in Zelman, A The History of Mediation: Mapping the Dialectic between Surface Interaction and Deep Structure, Masters Thesis, University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, 1997.

13 (flow) from what is ultimately communicated (stock), because each can be viewed as an aspect of mediated communication that is individually significant.

Communicative processes demand both a reference system and a participating party, and these each have unique historical reference points. The History of Mediation, understood this way, enables a means of assessing the differences between modes of mediated communication by enabling juxtaposition between actual and expected communications. For the purposes of this study a theoretic triad of Architecture – Network – System is established as a heuristic or model to understand the dynamics of the SOEIS communication system, and it is through this History of Mediation lens that the following theoretical bodies are explored to better situate the empirical analyses, and their interrelation.

The second important concept of relevance here concerns the ‘locus’ of meaning.

Stated more precisely: is meaning a situated process, and is it a mediated process?

What is knowledge production? Is the production of knowledge even possible without mediation, or the notion of meaning? All of these questions are intertwined, and it remains a matter of definition as to how one locates meaning. To this end, Structuralist, Poststructuralist, and Structurational theories of meaning will be examined and placed within the context of the History of Mediation. Thus, the modelling approaches of Medium Theory, Actor Network Theory and Systems Theory are combined with theories of meaning and knowledge production in order to provide a well rounded approach to understanding the dynamics of mediated knowledge production, and to enrich the interpretation of the results of each of the respective analyses performed in Part II – Analysis.

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