Networks and link data

Sylvan Katz j.s.katz at SUSSEX.AC.UK
Mon Mar 12 12:16:32 EDT 2007


The flow of ideas a very interesting concept. However, measurement is, as 
you pointed out rather difficult since an idea is a somewhat ethereal 

> This leads to a broader concept which is conserved, which I call
> "attention." Rather than looking at the movement of an idea from person
> to person, look at the movement of attention from idea to idea. If we
> assume that one can only think about one topic at a time then attention
> is conserved. Thinking about percolation thoery precludes thinking about

I am not sure about the notion of conservation of attention. The only known 
conserved entities are physical things like energy, spin, charge, etc. 
While attention maybe limited or constrained it is unlikely that is 
conserved at least in the same manner as the conservation of energy. For 
example each of us has more or less attention at any point in time 
depending on a variety of factors including such things as health, social 
and environmental factors, psychological state, etc. While attention maybe 
a constrained resource it is not clear that is a conserved resource.

Is it possible that the movement of ideas from person to person is 
synonymous with the movement of personal attention from idea to idea?

>As with any applied math, the question is how to apply it to the thing or 
process under study.
>For the diffusion of scientific ideas this is a hard problem, because the 
science of ideas is
>poorly developed. But I think we are making headway. Thanks for your 

This is a problem. Until there are ways to measure ideas and their 
diffusion it might be that these models will have limited value. For sure 
it will be difficult to calibrate any model to real world situations 
without the availability of robust indicators derived from real world 
measures. Of course, complicating matters even more is the possibility that 
an idea is rarely pure but enmeshed in a complex of other ideas which are 
implied during the transfer. If the recipient(s) is unaware of the complex 
then the transfer could be incomplete and have less valuable no matter how 
much attention the recipient(s) has at his disposal. Very interesting stuff 


Dr. J. Sylvan Katz, Visiting Fellow
SPRU, University of Sussex

Adjunct Professor
Mathematics & Statistics, University of Saskatchewan

Associate Researcher
Institut national de la recherche scientifique, University of Quebec

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