The networked mind

Studies in East European Thought 60 (1-2):149-158 (2008)

Kristof Nyiri
Eotvos Lorand University of Sciences
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
Keywords Intellectual networks  Collective thinking  Theory of communication  Toronto school
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DOI 10.1007/s11212-008-9044-0
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The Principles of Psychology.William James - 1890 - Dover Publications.

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