By Erick Peirson.
An important component of analyzing the causes and dynamics of conceptual change in science is understanding the behavior and influence of individual scientists, in the context of their collaborations and discursive activity. Fleck's concept of Denkkollectiv drew attention to the ways in which patterns of collaboration give rise to specialized Denkstil -- patterns of thought, language, and practice that constitute the lens through which scientists see the natural world and ask questions about it. Consistent with our everyday experience in social situations, Social Network Analysis has shown how power and influence are distributed unevenly among individual actors in collectives, shaping the flow of ideas and information in those social networks. Graph theory gives us a rich collection of concepts and metrics to express such influence quantitatively, based on the structural properties of networks. As historians we are interested not only in the structure of particular social networks, but how those networks evolve. With respect to analyzing the behavior and influence of individual actors, this prompts us to ask how different scientists enter existing collaborative networks, and how their structural position within those networks change over time.
One way to pursue this question... (read more)