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Paper info: Distribution networks as a culture of collaboration


Distribution networks as a culture of collaboration


Lorraine Watkins-Mathys and Sid Lowe

Place of Publication

The paper was published at the 18th IMP-conference in Perth, Australia in 2002.


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Culture is an emergent property of human systems. It differentiates humans from other animals because it describes how humans 'make themselves' through symbolism. Humans, unlike other creatures, create complex identities through symbols, knowledge, information and communication or 'discourse'. Culture enables humans to construct a reality for themselves and, as such, humans prescribe their environment, their 'self ' and others through symbolism. Culture, therefore is suitably conceived of as a networkof ideas. Understanding of these ideas requires emphasis upon their pattern (or form) of their organisation, which involves the qualitative configuration of relationships of ideas. These relational patterns are non-material and non-physical processes, andtherefore, not appropriate for structural analysis.Culture and networks are, consequently, coalescent constructs. They both concern nonphysical organisation. Culture is a human network of ideas and human networks are cultural because they prescribe their own existence through symbolic ideas. Bothconstructs require an epistemic consciousness wherein epistemology has no essential, structural foundations. Network thinking or vernetztes Denken recognises that reality and our descriptions of it are a network of relationships. Objective understanding is, therefore, a fallacy because we cannot abstractly separate from this reality and our description of it because we are a part of it and it is a part of us. However, both network and cultural theory have been inclined to avoid this necessary ontological nominalism. They have been inclined to adopt the foundationalist premises of scientism in, consciously or not, often accepting the validity of nomotheic variance modelling and positivist epistemology. This paper outlines a subjectivist alternative, which promises totreat networks and culture as unreal inventions of human imagination. The implications for research in applying an 'epistemic consciousness' approach are outlined.