I was thinking some more last night about Stephen Johnson's new position that there are separate types of clustering and adaptive emergence as I was reading Albert-Laszlo Barabasi's book Linked (which I am enjoying immensely, by the way; more on that in a later post). I suddenly had a flash of intuition that what Johnson now refers to as "clustering" emergence in the Dean campaign and other political grassroots events may just be the formation of a small-world network.
Here's the evidence:
- The Dean campaign achieved incredibly rich, fast, and robust communication with its grass roots, just as you would expect in a small-world network.
- The Blog For America site acted as a network hub, which is just the kind of catalyst you need to turn a normal grassroots network into a small-world network.
- The sense that this powerful, organic "system" suddenly "emerged" is consistent with the kind of sudden and dramatic phase transition that is typical at the moment of small-world network formation.
It might be interesting to graph the Dean campaign's network of support web sites, blogs, etc., and compare it to the other campaigns. Did Dean's support web conform to a power law? Did Kerry's? Bush's? One aspect that makes this harder is that, with MeetUp factored into the picture, the network extends outside the Internet in some significant ways and therefore might be a lot harder to map.