Meshes: wheels, trees, buses and clusters

One way to look at the jumble of posts in this blog is like a messy network: a group of observations and insights (the nodes) that, it often seems, are connected randomly. That tangle network is (as I imagine) being represented and updated somewhere in my brain. From there it offers stories to my consciousness through bodily functions (temporary coalitions of brain cells?). I have only partial control over these processes (I borrow these images from Gazzaniga’s Who’s in Charge?). For those who feel they understand the world, this image is probably more complicating than enlightening. Certainly if we suspect that everyone is walking around with, working on and benefiting from their own private jumble of comprehensions. Perhaps this complexity becomes even worse if we allow the idea that individuals communicate with each other and thereby form social networks that will also exhibit tangle characteristics. In this way we see the world becoming not only physically and intellectually, but also socially complex.

I harvested three images from the internet that illustrate a physical, conceptual and social tangle respectively. The first comes from a treatise on artificial intelligence (, the second from a so-called content-mining excercise on a part from Wikipedia ( and the third is an example of how social networks can be analyzed and typed (https: // It is remarkable that all three examples can be approached with the same techniques and methodologies. Because those examples play at very different levels of aggregation, there is talk about scale-free models and scale-free methods. These may be useful for keeping an intellectual view of the characteristics of extensive tangle networks. Equally remarkable is the significance of how networks cluster and how those clusters become individual actors at a higher level of aggregation. In that process, forces can be recognized that are used unconsciously (emergence) and consciously (coarse graining).

Another approach to gaining insight into tangle networks is identifying meaningful sets of basic building blocks and ways in which they can be combined. This approach can employ models-in-action (agent-based models), an approach that I prefer. Moreover, we can then use network theories that have recently been developed, shortly before the time that Google found them ready for their services.

For discussing how tangle networks may be constructed I mention three basic building blocks: the wheel, the tree and the tube (bus). (Figures taken from Wheel (collectivist) Tree (hierarchy) Bus (individualist) In addition to the basic connection (the line connecting two nodes as in a contract), it seems that three types of building blocks entail organizational characteristics: for the functioning of a wheel, nodes are of equal importance and arranged around a central point (the wheel encourages a collectivist organizational form); for the functioning of a tree, connecting via branches is indispensable (whereby the building block promotes a hierarchical organizational form); a special infrastructure is decisive for the functioning of the bus, which makes communication between any two nodes independent of the intervention of other nodes (whereby the building block attracts an individualistic organizational form).