Web Citation Index

Perhaps following up on a distributed conversation on citation indexing among academic blogs (me, David Brake, Seb Paquet), Thomson ISI has announced a new scholarly index of web publications, largely based on the CiteSeer project. I see this as a major positive move, in part because it means that publishing your work to the web no longer carries quite as many disincentives, from the perspective of the tenure process, as it has in the past.

Both Seb and David raise the issue that citation is a good measure of popularity, and that is helpful for some things and not for others. In general, this is a view that I am sympathetic to. Seb suggests that someone would do well to collect both from the core of the elite blogs and from the periphery of lesser-known ones.

I’ll fall back on a homology that I use fairly consistently: the city as an information-processing machine. We like to think that innovation happens at the city core, while the hinterlands remain a kind of social memory, a more conservative force. This is true to an extent, but it discounts the nature of the flow of innovation. Invention is more observable at the core of a city, because it is at this core where the greatest amount of fusion, translation, and reconfiguration takes place. The city center acts as a solvent, reducing the temporal and spatial barriers to interaction that permeate the rest of the society.

However, the hinterlands (and this is not a binary opposition: the “hinterlands” here means anything from Harlem to Peoria to Vladivostok) provide the framework for innovation, for the development of inventions into something more permanent, sustained, and ultimately more influential.

So, some kids come to town with their pants hanging a bit lower than usual. In the maelstrom of interactions in the city, this becomes a trope. It is reified and replicated on a small scale. Others — either for commercial gain or search of social currency — take these trends, concretize them into mass media depictions or commercial products, and redistribute them in a more or less stable way to the broader culture. And this broader culture provides the friction and isolation needed to allow ideas to mutate and incubate. The city, left to itself, eats itself. It needs to draw on young ideas from the surrounding hinterlands.

It’s both true that you need to pay attention to the concentration, and that you need to pay attention to the periphery: both are of value.

Now the question is whether concentrations of citations are really analogous to concentrations of communication and transportation that happen in cities. New York is the center of FedEx packages, telephone calls, and web links in the world. Does it follow that in-links indicate centers of invention? Clearly not.

The A-list bloggers represent the broadcasters of today, and as such bore me. That is, while every journalist is most interested in the handful of blogs that seem to be supplanting journalists, I find this to be the least interesting effect of blogging. Most interesting to me is the possibility that blogs are taking on more local seats of opinion and innovation leadership.

The process of drawing ideas and practices from the hinterlands and spewing back translations is repeated at every bracketed level–that is, it is fractal. I am talking not just about the world city (the concentration of between 8 and 20 global centers), but about neighborhoods and groups that draw on the isolated and process this into something that can be understood widely.

Katz & Lazardsfeld’s work on 2-step and multi-step flow got at some of this, perhaps. The interesting step is no so much from the mass to opinion leaders, but to and from opinion leaders and their constituency. This is still largely an invisible, interpersonal process, but I think that is changing with blogs, and I think that change will be much more interesting.

This is all, in some way, a defense for the Scholarati stuff I talked about below. What is interesting in the power law family of distributions of web links is that they seem to be self-similar at scale. I think looking at ways of bracketing off subnets is a valuable process. For me, this centers on how scholars use their blogs, but it could just as easily be Buffy fans or chicken farmers. The question is whether there is some relationship between a subnetwork and the composition of that network? Is there some network structure of hyperlinks (admittedly an estimate, but an available measure) that correlates to topical or other cohesiveness?

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  1. stef
    Posted 6/18/2004 at 12:24 am | Permalink

    great post: learned alot.


  2. stef
    Posted 6/18/2004 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

    checked out your blogging lecture and trying to understand how glogging cooresponds: i think a site for volunteers regarding all sorts of surveys/research can be in the form of a blog: also learning about different blog engines and wiki/blog engines, or a type of linking between sites that creates more action on ones community. the sousavaillence infrastructure fits in with all this.

    back to the Pyncham question: i first learned about his work during an architecture lecture in nyc. the idea of city deconstructed was the theme of this lecture was about how we are changing our concept of space. the idea of being an individual in a media surrounded self and maintaining ones architecture of one is what Steve Mann has been working on as well. I kept on thinking of Jame’s Joyce’s writings as i was listening to the lecture and viewing slides of new concept buildings that looked as if they would collapse. engineering fooling the senses: gravity cheated.

    i guess as an academic person who is kind of a lone wolf, outside a large institution, except for the teaching duties at a university hospital, where politically, cause i am out in the “real world,” i am sort on the outside, or margin of my local research community. I like jumping from blog to blog, i learn alot and don’t have the responsibity of blog management. But as my brainstormed ideas become refined, i will need an voluteer audience to collect data. but will persons do this?

    i find myself, and many others find themselves, as a pynchamian character: cautious of what the groups of historical movement versus the momentary participation within history as becoming an inescapable paradox. so as movement begin, and the collapes of power structures make room for the new and influential, what structure, if any, will we be able to concieve the social patterns that begin with the change in us.

    so as we look to literature for models of self construction: be it theatre as in the ancients, or as Proust, or even Tolstoy, will we stumble into the new narratives of a well distributed spirituality, that touches upon the poetics of being. Will bloggers start to reason with the self regarding social issues and act within the fourth ammendment of the right to bear camera, and self organize towards cleaning up a particular locality?

    or will this lead to a social imploding of self destructed calculated selves that are completly lost within the information superhighway. What Will be the final wars of Humanism? and will it be post humanism itself: the digital self uncovered, and seen by a transient big everyone that implodes into a final version of big brother.

    So academics enter the realm of sophistry when conflict of interests pressure a censoring of thought: democracy being the language of self invention that can be the escape. The blog seems to promise a well distributed power stucture that evade the tyranny of the elite who squash independent discovery. Complicted as it may be, ubiquitous computing can unravel into a system of personal reconfiguration as the self determination becomes how we take things apart and rebuild a wearable shield that monitors either chemical or digital invasion. Will it then enter a self genetic management? will Stelarc’s ear upon the arm be a standard port of connecting with information superstuctures: what will be the system of citation as these systems develop.

    so: how to answer your question:

    “The question is whether there is some relationship between a subnetwork and the composition of that network? Is there some network structure of hyperlinks (admittedly an estimate, but an available measure) that correlates to topical or other cohesiveness?”

    I think the answer lays within the imagination: botht the isolated and the collective. Literature may help explain how cohesiveness comes into being: i always liked Tolstoys chapters on what makes the masses move: like to imagine how he would approach this whole thing.

    hmmm: lets see what happens with this probe. we have ideas and sentiment: we are somehow all worried about something, but is it defined? We have our expertise: now expressiveness in doing will become part of an memory prosthetic that sousavailles those who harm the individual and our mutual planet.

    I think how media effects users is also key. I really like Richard Smith’s grad students paper on this topic and i think it touches on your question in the sense that expresses the sentiments that seem to be binding a group of researchers that had met on April 12. A group that is becoming a subnetwork that can become a network in itself. ( i think i understand Wellman’s concepts of network)


    how do we become cohesive with our own will to represent and find the patterns within nature that disturb us the most. Reason dictates in that man is born free, but is in chains everywhere.


    so the process of “social probing” becomes more of a tool hi jacked from well intensioned social researchers and becomes increasingly, a way to discover anthropologic truths of how one can control and market to the masses, via communication devices that in the long run, will only be used to monitor all activity of all citizens: or at least, this is the danger that needs to be explored. Knowing what is happening to ones personal data: or at least having a p2p system of sharing information about how things are shaping up, leads to a community that is creative, but most importantly, is free. what will freedom be like


  3. stef
    Posted 6/18/2004 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    change third paragraph:

    i find myself, as others find themselves: as a pynchamian character: cautious of what groups within a historical movement bring. The momentary participation within history is becoming an inescapable paradox. so as movement begins, and the collapes of power structures make room for the new and influential, what structure, if any, will we be able to concieve. will it be the social patterns that bring upon us change within.

  4. stef
    Posted 6/18/2004 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

    i mean fourth:

  5. Posted 6/18/2004 at 9:23 pm | Permalink

    tap the link for a relevant paper on how subnetworks and citation systems come into being: got the paper from another blog

  6. stefanos
    Posted 6/19/2004 at 8:14 am | Permalink

    reading my own posts is interesting: time was a factor between patients as i tried to answer your question to contextualize what was going inside my own head and how it relates to your research.

    stumbling through a field i am not an expert in is fascinating. Connecting with ideas, and the persons behind the ideas brings on a better learning experience. When I was in college in the late 80’s, and throughout med school and residency, this stuff was not as mainstream. How one now re educates oneself by interacting with the subnetwork, finding the relevant links: meeting the persons behind the ideas, is very empowering.

    its as if the blog entries, my own and others entries, are part of my own disorganized notes during an ongoing class. It was always cool to get someone elses notes prior an exam…especially if i missed most of the classes.

    interesting how the liberal arts seem to jump into a scientific brain more readily when one has an extended brain…it does take more time to process and demonstrate the connections and logic behind the thoughts. For me, the sciences where easier to ace. But i felt empty and unrounded without the process of a real education.

    handled 30 calls last night: now got to jump in the shower and see seven patients in the hospital and 15 at a nursing home. which i had an eyetap to glog the work load.

    I guess you have dealt with future docs in your classes: its a selection process to get those who can process the most information the fastest and can con the professor into thinking they are the best and brightest to get that grade for the med school spot. It becomes an easy to play game for most: but in the long run, we are undermining what is most important: compassionate empaths who can see from the patient’s perspective. Having a deep appreciation for the huamnities and social sciences is key for this to happen in building a work force of compassionate doctors.

    So, can the blog system of cross linked citations create a group of different type of persons able to get into med school who can provide better care for their patients? Maybe the pressure of social fitting in with the community that has higher social standard as a whole rather than fitting in with some smart, but selfish persons that lack a sense of civic duty, bring about an improvement in health care.

    The system is a monster that chews up good persons: it spits them out cold and distant to human suffering.

    How will the shift of power structures deal with this Machiavellian world? Sousavaillence is present in the blog world: there is a standard about ones quality of posting. Be it the blogger, or the person making the comments.

  7. Posted 6/20/2004 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    crosslinked towards a subnetwork of clinical sousavaillence researchers: check out the cool picture of sir william osler

  8. Posted 6/20/2004 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    i guess my ideas are turning into abstracts as i find collaborators here and there: hit the link below…sorry for posting in an odd way…but we docs are kind of behind with these citation ideas…hence, weirdo postings that get at intersting ideas

2 Trackbacks

  1. By Collin vs. Blog on 6/19/2004 at 3:14 am

    I’m going to slide off on a tangent here. For me, the questions raised about blogs & communities and/or email v. RSS have gotten me to thinking about push & pull. And that, in turn, has connected for me with the discussion about citation that Alex, Seb…

  2. By Mathemagenic on 6/19/2004 at 3:44 pm

    Weblog networks as social ecosystems: finding who belongs to a weblog community
    A bit of a

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