Alexander V. Oleskin
General Ecology Department, School of Biology, Moscow State University, Moscow, Russia
Series: Systems Biology – Theory, Techniques and Applications
This book focuses on network structures in biological systems and in human society. The term “network structure” is used in literature with at least two different meanings. The broader meaning (denoted by this author as a network sensu lato) refers to any system composed of nodes (vertices) connected by links (edges). In terms of this interpretation, the analytical tools that deal with centrality measures, clustering, and community structure-related criteria, small-world behavior, and other network characteristics have provided important insights into the organization and functioning of various objects, including biological systems and human society.
However, there is a narrower interpretation of the term “network” that is predominantly used in the social sciences: a network structure is a decentralized, non-hierarchical system that is regulated by cooperative interactions among its nodes (a network sensu stricto. In this work, the term “networks” is interpreted in the latter sense.
The characteristics of a network’s organizational situation are considered in this work in comparison to other types of structures that are denoted as (1) hierarchical (vertical, pyramidal) structures characterized by a single dominant activity center (central leader, pacemaker); and (2) (quasi-)market structures dominated by competitive, rather than cooperative, interactions among the actors involved. This is an interdisciplinary work because the three organizational structures are considered with respect to biological systems and to human society, including its political system.
The book demonstrates that network structures, as well as hierarchies and quasi-markets, are widely spread in various forms of life, ranging from unicellular organisms to Homo sapiens. Decentralized network structures enable efficient behavioral coordination in biosocial systems (groups, colonies, families, communities) of individuals belonging to diverse taxa. These network structures can be subdivided into several different organizational subtypes. In this book, they are exemplified by the cellular (“microbial”), modular (“cnidarian”), equipotential (“shoal”), eusocial (“ant”), neural, and egalitarian (“ape”) paradigm.
The involvement of network structures in the development of civil society and the accumulation of social capital is underscored. Even though the book does not provide detailed recipes for the development of network structures, it is hoped that the information provided by this text will help innovative educators, scientific enthusiasts, environmental activists, political reformers, and all others interested in establishing decentralized, non-hierarchical, and cooperative structures to successfully carry out their creative organizational plans in different spheres of human society.
This work can also be used as a guidebook on network structures that is intended for high school, college, and university students specializing in the life sciences (including ecology, microbiology, ethology, and neurology), medicine, sociology, political science, management theory, psychology, and philosophy. For this purpose, the book offers a glossary; most of the sections in this book include bold-typed summaries for the students to use to recap the basic concepts that are discussed in this book. (Imprint: Nova Biomedical )