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Логотип CGES

Interdisciplinary Research Seminar “Network Perspectives on Communication, Knowledge & Culture: From Theory to Empirical Applications”

November 16, 2013

St. Petersburg State University, CGES


Speakers: Prof. Dr. Jan Fuhse (Humboldt University, Germany), Prof. Dr. Wouter de Nooy (University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands), Dr. Nikita Basov (CGES), Dr. Aleksandra Nenko (NRU Higher School of Economics)
Participants: Students, PhD students, researchers and professors from universities of St. Petersburg
Moderator: Dr. Nikita Basov
Participants: students from different faculties of St. Petersburg State University


The seminar was organized as part of CGES' research area “Network Structures in Germany, Europe and Russia”. 16 Participants of the seminar discussed recent theoretical and methodological issues as well as empirical applications of joint network analysis of knowledge, communication and culture.
The first part of the Seminar revolved around the concepts of communication, knowledge and culture. Dr. Jan Fuhse (Humboldt University, Germany) examined communication as a complex process of structure formation, which – viewed as a series of recursively connected communicative events – drives the evolution of social networks. These networks consist of relational expectations and are linked to cultural networks of meaning. Drawing on N. Luhmann, Fuhse showed how in this approach, knowledge related to the information aspect of communication is independent from the actors in the communication network.

Wouter de Nooy (University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands) explained the structural dynamics of communication through communicators’ reciprocal perception and practical implementation of statuses and desirable sequences of role-based interactions implicitly pledged in culture. He suggested that culture may emerge in stable sequences of communicative actions between individuals.

Nikita Basov (St. Petersburg State University) suggested investigating – with the help of a combination of autopoiesis theory and network approach – the co-evolution of knowledge and communication structures as specific cultural configurations of social entities within the process of structural coupling between such entities in a common environment. He described his methodological considerations related to the mapping of knowledge structures by means of semantic network analysis; constructing of 2-mode networks of actors and concepts comprising knowledge structures; detection of subgroups in a combination of 1-mode and 2-mode networks of actors and concepts; visualizing knowledge-communication network configurations as composite 3-dimensional structural models.

The seminar produced intense discussion of the questions of role, functions, and interplay between cultural, knowledge and communication networks. Among the most debated issues were the stability of relational networks, and the influence of meaning structures and communicative events on the dynamics of social networks.

The second part of the seminar presented a number of showcases of methods used in empirical applications and linked to the theoretical / methodological positions suggested in the first part. Wouter de Nooy suggested a set of techniques for analyzing the development of communicative interaction structures in connection with specific cultural patterns through statistical dynamic actor-oriented models of local network structures. By analyzing the literary community of Denmark, de Nooy demonstrated a tight connection between the processes of classification and labeling, and the actor’s response to changes in the structure of affective networks. Jan Fuhse introduced qualitative and quantitative methods for analyzing communication and culture using the examples of everyday and public communication events, which determine the development of network relations (mutual expectations) between actors. The Seminar participants were invited to test the method of network analysis in cultural relations study by constructing their own Galois lattices. Nikita Basov and Aleksandra Nenko (NRU Higher School of Economics) provided showcases of methods for semantic network analysis of knowledge and communication using data from a comparative empirical study of four art communities located in St. Petersburg and one located in Barcelona. Furthermore, the Seminar participants had an opportunity to try out the techniques of qualitative analysis on the knowledge structures of art communities by comparing their codified descriptions to the cores of their semantic networks.

The seminar was a significant contribution to research areas 1 and 2 as well as the new CGES research project “Dynamics of Knowledge and Communication Structures of Creative Collectives in European Cultural Capitals” commencing in 2014 both in contents and participation, involving leading sociosemantic networks scholars in collaboration. It also stimulated students and PhD students to join the project.

The seminar stimulated the work of research teams of CGES, at the Faculty of sociology and School of Journalism at St. Petersburg State University, as well as at Higher School of Economics, resulting in new papers done in collaboration with Russian and European scholars (e.g., paper by Nikita Basov (CGES) and Wouter de Nooy (University of Amsterdam) Visualizing sociosemantic networks, which develops novel approaches to visual analysis of sociosemantic networks using 3D layouts and Pivot MDS and presented at the Conference of the International Network for Social Network Analysis Sunbelt XXXIV in February 2014, including papers in collaboration between research teams participants, e.g., paper by Nikita Basov (CGES), Wouter de Nooy (University of Amsterdam) and Aleksandra Nenko (Higher School of Economics) Sociosemantic Networks of St. Petersburg Artistic Communities to be presented at the CGES-organized 2nd International Conference “Networks in the Global World 2014: Bridging Theory and Method”.

In 2014, CGES will organize a series of open research workshops to introduce the participants to all of the research steps involved in network analysis of knowledge and communication structures – from data collection and network mapping, to interpretation of the results and reaching conclusions on the specific characteristics of network configurations and their dynamics. The workshops will utilize the latest relevant software solutions.