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ERIC Number: ED547379
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2012
Pages: 312
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: N/A
ISBN: 978-1-2674-4394-6
The Evolution of Social and Semantic Networks in Epistemic Communities
Margolin, Drew Berkley
ProQuest LLC, Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Southern California
This study describes and tests a model of scientific inquiry as an evolving, organizational phenomenon. Arguments are derived from organizational ecology and evolutionary theory. The empirical subject of study is an "epistemic community" of scientists publishing on a research topic in physics: the string theoretic concept of "D-branes." The study uses evolutionary theory as a means of predicting change in the way members of the community choose concepts to communicate acceptable knowledge claims. It is argued that the pursuit of new knowledge is risky, because the reliability of a novel knowledge claim cannot be verified until after substantial resources have been invested. Using arguments from both philosophy of science and organizational ecology, it is suggested that scientists can mitigate and sensibly share the risks of knowledge discovery within the community by articulating their claims in legitimate forms, i.e., forms that are testable within and relevant to the community. Evidence from empirical studies of semantic usage suggests that the legitimacy of a knowledge claim is influenced by the characteristics of the concepts in which it is articulated. A model of conceptual retention, variation, and selection is then proposed for predicting the usage of concepts and conceptual co-occurrences in the future publications of the community, based on its past. Results substantially supported hypothesized retention and selection mechanisms. Future concept usage was predictable from previous concept usage, but was limited by conceptual carrying capacity as predicted by density dependence theory. Also as predicted, retention was stronger when the community showed a more cohesive social structure. Similarly, concepts that showed structural signatures of high testability and relevance were more likely to be selected after previous usage frequency was controlled for. By contrast, hypotheses for variation mechanisms were not supported. Surprisingly, concepts whose structural position suggested they would be easiest to discover through search processes were used less frequently, once previous usage frequency was controlled for. The study also makes a theoretical contribution by suggesting ways that evolutionary theory can be used to integrate findings from the study of science with insights from organizational communication. A variety of concrete directions for future studies of social and semantic network evolution are also proposed. [The dissertation citations contained here are published with the permission of ProQuest LLC. Further reproduction is prohibited without permission. Copies of dissertations may be obtained by Telephone (800) 1-800-521-0600. Web page:]
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Publication Type: Dissertations/Theses - Doctoral Dissertations
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A