SFI: Finding Cultural Holes – How Structure And Culture Diverge In Networks Of Scholarly Communication

Jevin West

University of Washington

SFI News:

The Santa Fe Institute is hosting a colloquium with Jevin West at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 17 at Noyce Conferance Room at the SFI in Santa Fe. 

Abstract: Divergent interests, expertise, and language form cultural barriers to communication. No formalism has been available to characterize these “cultural holes.” Here we use information theory to measure cultural holes and demonstrate our formalism in the context of scientific communication using papers from JSTOR.

We extract scientific fields from the structure of citation flows and infer field-specific cultures by cataloging phrase frequencies in full text and measuring the relative efficiency of between-field communication. We then combine citation and cultural information in a novel topographic map of science, mapping citations to geographic distance and cultural holes to topography. By analyzing the full citation network, we find that communicative efficiency decays with citation distance in a field-specific way.

These decay rates reveal hidden patterns of cohesion and fragmentation. For example, the ecological sciences are balkanized by jargon, whereas the social sciences are relatively integrated. Our results highlight the importance of enriching structural analyses with cultural data.

SFI Host: Ben Althouse

Click here to view the online event listing.