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Monday, January 10, 2005

Linked to AIDS....

I realize it is not the way sane people operate, but I have this tendency to be reading two or three works at any one time. At least one of the three gets a complete read through, while the other two end up on the floor somewhere near my bed or desk.

At the moment there are four books on my current list, but only three are getting any attention -- and the one getting the most attention at the moment is Barabasi's Linked, which is quickly emerging as a favorite. Fascinating, this network stuff -- and not at all in the way I expected.

I originally started it as a companion read to Slaughter's A New World Order, a book that seemed more relevant to my interests at the time. But as it turns out, Slaughter's work is merely a repackaging of the institutionalist perspectives on governance with a new twist here and there, but nothing I've read so far seems to justify all the hype and accolades. As I noted in an earlier post, it seems to be applying the illumination of some pretty basic (so-called) "network" models to global affairs, but thus far she has not quite demonstrated how any of this constitutes the "new world order" claimed in the title....

Barabasi, however, is providing the reader with the latest approaches to (and insights of) network analysis, and using it in ways that actually make this a "page turner". In the current chapter (10 by normal count, but he calls it "The Tenth Link"), for example, he is discussing (in one chapter, mind you) the popularity of a political cartoon, the failure of the Newton handheld (and the success of the Palm), the success of the Love Bug virus, the success of a hybrid corn crop in the US Midwest, Wilt Chamberlain's sexual promiscuity, and the spread of AIDS -- and I have yet to complete the chapter! As fascinating, in the process he has raised a number of policy and moral issues that must be addressed as a result of recent findings in the networking field as applied to the spread of the AIDS virus....

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