Small Worlds and the New 'Social Physics'

Urry, John. (2004) Small Worlds and the New 'Social Physics'. Global Networks, 4 (2). pp. 109-130. ISSN 1471-0374

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In this article I explore the increasing overlaps between 'sociology' and 'physics' through analysing recent contributions to the social network literature concerned with exploring and explaining the so-called 'small world' phenomenon. I show that this new social network literature, while very provocative, is insufficiently sociological and insufficiently complex. With regard to the former it is demonstrated that a key issue is that of meetingness and hence of travel in order to effect meetingness. Networks have, in other words, to be performed, and they have to come together from time to time, especially to talk. I further show that the small worlds literature is insufficiently complex. Social networks often involve combinations of mobilities and highly structured material immobilities. I conclude the article with an analysis of how a new 'social physics' based around the notion of 'network' might be established in an era in which time and space seem increasingly warped, bent and twisted into strikingly new topologies.

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Journal Article
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Global Networks
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31 Jul 2008 11:12
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17 Sep 2023 23:59