Dynamic Networks. An interdisciplinary study of network organization in biological and human social systems.

Abstract of PhD Submission
Karen June Tesson


This thesis is about a metaphor; it explores the idea that human organizations could be treated "as if" they behaved like biological systems. The thesis focuses on one biological metaphor in particular - the idea of a living network.

The thesis begins with an exploration of the philosophical background to my research. The development of rationalistic and reductionist approaches to systems enquiry is described, and the limitations of these approaches are discussed. This is followed by a discussion of non-linear, holistic and other approaches, including a newly emerging perspective known as Inclusionality. Communication is an important aspect of both human and biological systems, so I continue by examining established theories of communication, showing how they have influenced the way we understand communicative systems. A chapter is devoted to the subject of metaphor, which explains how in contemporary research, metaphor is treated not merely as a linguistic device, but as a cognitive tool that reflects how we make connections between ideas. Various metaphors for human organizations are discussed, including the network metaphor.

I deal with network theory itself in some detail, firstly exploring conventional network theory, which is concerned with networks that are node based, and secondly with the organization of natural biological networks which are quite different in form and are the products of autocatalytic flow. The concept of the "flow-form network" as a metaphor for human organizations is explored, and some of the methodological issues concerning the study of such networks are discussed.

The latter part of the thesis describes a practical study of a human organization, where communicative patterns were investigated. The study highlights how flow-form networks might be identified in human organizations, as well as the limitations that conventional methods of enquiry pose in such an investigation.


You can download the PhD in chapters which are stored in PDF Format

Abstract, Acknowledgements, Contents, List of Figures, List of Tablespage 2-16

Chapter 1 - Introductionpage 17-35

Chapter 2 - From Mechanism to Inclusion: a discussion of selected literature on the philosophy of science and systems page 36-57

Chapter 3 - Communication theory page 58-76

Chapter 4 - Metaphorpage 77-97

Chapter 5 - Conventional network theory page 98-113

Chapter 6 - Natural networks: towards a new metaphor of networks page 114-136

Chapter 7 - The study of flow-form networks: an introduction to the methodological issues and challenges page 137-156

Chapter 8 - Teamwork study: aims, context and rationale page 157-171

Chapter 9 - Teamwork study: procedures page 172-186

Chapter 10 - Teamwork study: results and analysis page 187-208

Chapter 11 - Teamwork study: discussion page 209-229

Chapter 12 - Concluding discussion page 230-252

References page 253-267

Appendix 1 Scheme used to transcribe video-recorded dialogue in Study 2 page 268

Appendix 2 Raw data and initial analysis for Study 1 - The structure of interaction networks between team members during Liveweek page 269-287

Appendix 3 Excerpt of transcribed and coded content data from Study 2 (dialogue study) page 288