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Mindmap #13: Concept Groupings 1

This week is the first of two focused on grouping theorists and/or theories by concepts. I identified five concept groups to which I’ve connected theories: Agency, Flow, Meaning, Boundaries, and Composition/Rhetoric. I’ve included a screenshot of the area I’ve set aside for concept grouping, along with a full-map version.

Popplet mindmap visualization

Concept Groupings, Week 1 (Inset): Putting Theories in Place (Popplet)

Popplet mindmap visualization

The Entire Mindmap: Concept Groupings on the Left (Popplet)

I described the concept groups as follows:

  • Agency: Individual nodes (as opposed to groups of nodes) are given partial or full agency in the network.
  • Flow: There is movement of some material through or in the network.
  • Meaning: That which flows through the network has intrinsic meaning; it is not simply material.
  • Boundaries: The theory offers some recognition of boundaries of the network, either as affordances or as constraints to the operation or definition of the network.
  • Composition/Rhetoric: Theory offers direct or indirect reference to rhet/comp, or originates in rhet/comp.

I chose these concepts in part because several have been part of our inquiry throughout the semester and in part because these are aspects of networks that interest me most. I am becoming especially interested in boundaries in networks, whether the result of framework or infrastructure constraints or the result of relatively arbitrary efforts to circumscribe networks for study or description.

Geopolitical boundaries fascinate me, the result of growing up in Israel. I experienced early in my adolescence the arbitrary nature and origin of current Middle Eastern boundaries initiated through global political interests and will after World War I and, to a lesser extent, World War II. With an Israeli visa stamp in my passport, I remain a victim of those arbitrary borders — with few exceptions, I can’t cross the border into most Arab states using that passport. I can visit Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Oman, and UAE, but I’m unable to visit Syria, Lebanon, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, smaller Persian Gulf states or North African Arab states (Israeli Passport, 2014).

I would argue that the root of many socio-political conflicts in the Middle East stem from global influence on local boundaries. For example, the current Syrian civil war pits the minority Alawite ruling authority against the Sunni majority, the result of poorly-planned and articulated boundaries among various people groups with historic enmity toward one another. Not that individual nation-states or regions for specific people groups is the answer — reference ongoing enmity between Pakistan and India — but borders drawn in collaboration with, rather than enforced upon, local groups would surely have addressed, even mitigated, some of the pent-up enmity that has recently exploded in violence in Syria and surrounding nations. Boundaries are deeply decisive in the Middle East as borders, but they are also deeply decisive as concepts and socio-political realities. The result of divisiveness (differentiation) is discourse, and the rhetoric of boundaries, whether in reference to tricksters or Middle Eastern borders or networks, fascinates me.

At any rate, this week I limited connections to the theories rather than the theorists. I’ve maintained a running list of theories in the upper-left corner of my mindmap, each of which I’ve connected as Theorized and/or Operationalized. I’ve used that list of theories for connections. Next week, in addition to adding a concept or two, I’ll connect individual theorists to the concept groupings. This will weave a remarkably tangled web. It might even be ambient.


Israeli passport. (2014, March 27). Wikipedia. Retrieved 19 April 2014 from

[ Feature image: The wall between Israel and Palestine. CC licensed image from Flickr user Peter Barwick ]

Mindmap #3: Network Hierarchy

This week I focused on two terms—“historical a priori” and “contradiction”—that I wrangled in our Foucault Activity Worksheet, added  to my mindmap, defined, and determined their relationship to my growing understanding of networks. I found both to be useful in understanding networks because they address questions of network hierarchy, a theme of my questions about how networks function.

Mindmap image

Mindmap update #3 focusing on network hierarchy through Foucault’s “contradiction” and ”historical a priori.”

Network hierarchy is something I recognized almost immediately in relationship to web sites. As I’ve noted in previous posts [here and here and here], I recognize that a web site acts as both network (with its various pages as nodes and its links as connections) and node in the larger network of the intranet or internet, depending on local context. This simultaneity of function is part of network hierarchy, in that we can define higher and lower levels of networking. At the highest level might be “the Internet”; at the lowest level might be the “web page.” [Mind you, I have a feeling there are higher levels that Internet and lower levels than web pages, but I’ll use them as hierarchical extremes for now. The discourse has to stabilize (or we have to stabilize the discourse) for a moment to talk about it, right!]

Network hierarchy is contradictory. It requires us to recognize that our understanding of networks (or discourses or genres) can’t be formal or structural; our structural model would break almost as soon as theorized. As a result, our understanding of networks could be seen as an understanding of network elements “at play” with one another, variously relating to one another as either node or network. The contradictions inherent in the network itself result in this play. I love the idea that we can play in the network, and that the network is “in play” at all times.

Network hierarchy is not anarchy. This is where Foucault’s (2010/1972) historical a priori comes into play. There is an order underlying the network at a given moment; that order, however, is continually “in play” and dynamic, not static or set. There are rules that govern the network, and the connections and nodes that combine in the network have certain ways of connecting. But there is always tension against those rules. There are always networks pushing against frameworks, always frameworks getting redefined, and always networkers (those who build networks) who are finding new ways of making connections among networks and nodes. Tension between historical a priori and dynamic growth help grow the network in novel ways. Those novel ways are not generally chaotic or nihilistic; on the contrary, they are extensions of what’s already happening, ordered in the moment by the order of the moment.

I’m curious to explore more about network hierarchy because I sense it’s an important aspect of Bazerman’s (2004) genre set and Popham’s (2005) boundary genres. Popham’s boundary genres are quite interesting, but I have a nagging feeling that network hierarchies are significantly more complex than presented in that article. Twenty-first century network hierarchy seems nearly infinitely vast. Given the number of social networks as nodes alone will make one’s head swim—add to that the number of website networks as nodes, email networks as nodes, and other internet components as nodes, and the vastness of network hierarchies challenges the imagination.


Bazerman, C. (2004). Speech acts, genres, and activity systems: How texts organize activities and people. In Bazerman & Prior (Eds.), What writing does and how it does it: An introduction to analyzing texts and textual practices. New York, NY: Routledge.

Foucault, M. (2010). The archaeology of knowledge and the discourse on language. (A. M. Sheridan Smith, Trans.). New York: Vintage Books. (Original work published in 1972)

Popham, S. L. (2005). Forms as boundary genres in medicine, science, and business. Journal of Business and Technical Communication, 19(3), 279-303. doi:10.1177/1050651905275624

[Droids at Play: A Contradiction - CC image from Flickr user Pascal]