All posts by Henrik Ernstson

Henrik Ernstson is an interdisciplinary scholar who focuses on how biophysical, cultural and political dimensions are fused together in 'urban nature' or 'urban ecology'. This leaves the question of 'who is an expert' on urban ecology radically open. He has a background in Physics and Systems Ecology, but writes primarily on the management and politics of urban ecology and is interested in the possibilities for more equal and democratic city-making. He has worked in Cape Town and Stockholm and leads two research projects between the African Centre for Cities at the University of Cape Town and the Stockholm Resilience Centre at Stockholm University. See his blog at www.rhizomia.net.

Cityscapes :: An urban magazine from the global south :: New issue #3: The Smart City?

How to think cities anew? When what we are seeing are not new londons, parises, new-yorks or even tokyos growing, we need to start re-thinking what urbanization and urbanism is about.

New Cityscapes issue #3 out. Speaking from the south on ‘Smart Cities’.

This is when we need a magazine like Cityscapes. Started in 2011 by artist-desginer-urbanist Tau Tavengwa and Sean O’Toole, backed up by southern urbanist stalwart Edgar Pieterese, the magazine gives a provocative shot or sip of a matured postcolonial critique of knowledge production.

Indeed when urban Theory, capital T, is not longer valid for the type of cities we see in Rio de Janeiro, Lagos, Johannesburg, Mumbai, and Jakarta, we need new tools, registers and ways of engaging that allows for new theories of the urban to grow and influence city-making, including planning and design professions. This is when we need to ask, like Indian historian Dipesh Chakrabarty of how to “provincialize Europe”—re-inserting the ‘localness’ of European thought to allow for experiences of urbanization and scholarship from different regions to take hold and influence theory-making. If Europe and USA is merely a province in the world of knowledge-making, then how have other regions thought and enacted their cities?

The Cityscapes magazine makes the amazing balancing act of being popular and punchy, while delivering a relentless critique that cities should not only be thought about from a EuroAmerican experience. But from locations like Lima, Nairobi, Mogadishu, Bangalore, Jakarta, Harare, and Medellín. This builds upon decades of academic critique of how theory—or established ways of thinking—has been critiqued.

Indian urban scholar Ananya Roy (2009) and South African cultural geographer and comparative urbanist Jennifer Robinson (2002, 2005 etc.) have in a series of articles argued for a comparative urbanism, a cosmopolitan urbanism that can de-centre EuroAmerican theory and experience.

Cityscapes #2 – the previous issue.

In response to the ‘world city’ theory created by Saskia Sassen and in part Manuell Castells—which traces the economic relations for global capitalism and has come to create hierarchies of cities based upon the number of transnational companies that chooses to place their offices there—Robinson argues for theories of the ‘ordinary city’.

This is not to say that the world city theory is not helpful to understand the internationalization of capitalism, and how it necessarily needs cities, but to say that its focus comes with effects.

These ‘ordinary cities’ does not only ‘fall off the map’ of the ‘world city theory’, making these cities uninterested locations for research and policy, but these cities also suffer in the way that investment—private and above all public—are spent increasingly in cities that aspire to become ‘world class cities’.

Rather than spending money on improving essential infrastructure to deliver safe water, sewage, electricity and food, money are spent on business parks, luxurious water front developments, and big event buildings (think the World Cup soccer stadium built in Cape Town, now standing mostly empty; or the Formula 1 racing track in the Omerli Watershed outside Istanbul, used once a year).

Consequently, backed by the world city theory, a whole industry of consultants and thinkers have carved out a policy field to influence how decision-makers can turn their own cities into ‘world cities’. This shapes the urban agenda away from the problems and possibilities of the ‘ordinary city’ and in particular the needs of the urban poor.

In Cityscapes last issue #2 the world city theory is under scrutiny. Through interviews and photography, the magazine unpacks infrastructural investment in Johannesburg, and also visits Bangalore. Increasingly many Indian cities are aspiring to become world-class. “As an instance of homegrown neoliberalism, the Indian world-class city is inevitably a normative project”, writes Ananya Roy in Worldling Cities edited book (2011). As reported, “Why? And for whose benefit is the world-class city?”.

In the current issue #3 focus is on ‘The Smart City’, the increasing tendency to invest in high-tech monitoring and surveillance techniques to govern city-life. This represents a move to allow technicians and experts not only a greater say in defining the problems of the city, and its solutions, but also in the actual day-to-day governing of the city. As expressed by the editors in promoting this issue:

This fuzzily defined term speaks to the increasing use of networked information and communications technologies in ordering of large-scale urban phenomenon. The magazine visits Rio de Janeiro to find out what this means practically. “Technology gives you a faster response,” explains Dario Bizzo Marques, a technology systems coordinator at Rio’s $14-million integrated city management centre, home to Latin America’s largest surveillance screen.

“We increasingly share the space and time of cities with semi-autonomous agents of a nonhuman, indeed non-biological, nature, from drones to algorithms,” offers Adam Greenfield in his provocative 100-point manifesto appearing in Cityscapes and addressing the pervasive use of tech-savvy urban management solutions. Noted urban theorist Ash Amin, in a cornerstone 5000-word interview with Matthew Gandy, is also wary of the ideological implications of reducing city management to the top-down marshalling of abstract data.

If you are intrigued and need a stylish, punchy, provocative shot of postcolonial critique, make sure to get a copy of the new Cityscapes #3. It will hopefully come to destabilize how you think about cities. You can find more information here.

If you are interested in the academic debates, I have just with Mary Lawhon and James Duminy submitted a paper to the International Journal of Urban and Regional Research (IJURR) with the title “Conceptual vectors of African urbanism: ‘engaged theory-making’ and ‘platforms of engagement’. The manuscript summarizes debates but also pushes towards clarifying some of the contribution from the recent research on urbanism in Africa and what it could bring to theoretical conversations about cities. I could send you a copy if you are interested. For other entry points, see papers by Chakrabarty, Roy, Robinson, Simone and Pieterse below.

/Henrik Ernstson, Cape Town, 20 March, 2013

PS. The Cityscapes issue #3 will be launched Mar 27, 2013 at The Book Lounge, 71 Roeland Street, Cnr Buitenkant & Roeland Street, Cape Town. More information here.

References
Chakrabarty, D. (2007). Provincialising Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference (Second.). Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press.

Parnell, S., & Robinson, J. (n.d.). (Re)Theorizing Cities from the Global South: Looking Beyond Neoliberalism. Urban Geography.

Pieterse, E. (2008). City Futures: Confronting the Crisis of Urban Development. Global Issues Series. London: Zed Books.

Robinson, J. (2002). Global and world cities: a view from off the map. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 26, 531–554. doi:10.1111/1468-2427.00397

Robinson, J. (2011). Cities in a World of Cities: The Comparative Gesture. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 35, 1–23. doi:10.1111/j.1468-2427.2010.00982.x

Roy, A. (2009). The 21st-Century Metropolis: New Geographies of Theory. Regional Studies, 43(6), 819–830. doi:10.1080/00343400701809665

Roy, A., & Ong, A. (2011). Worlding Cities: Asian Experiments and the Art of Being Global, 41.

Simone, A. (2011). City Life from Jakarta to Dakar: Movements at the Crossroads. London: Routledge.

 

Stabilizing Collectives in the Study of Transformation: Instead of “key-individuals”

This deserves perhaps an even longer blog post, but I wrote this quickly as an appreciation to the previous blog by Juan Carlos Rocha.

The previous blog post puts focus on a quite problematic nexus within social-ecological studies, and management theory more generally: the focus on “key-individuals”, “leaders”, and “institutional or social entrepreneurs” to explain change and ‘transformation’. In my new chapter on “Transformative Collective Action” (Ernstson, 2011a; see blog post here) I review some of that literature and conclude that such constructs can create an analytical trap, or blindness, since these constructs provides the analyst a too easy way out for explaining change; ‘key-individuals’ tend to step out on the scene like ready-made ‘magic boxes’ to put things right, very much like a deus ex machina in Greek or Brechtian dramas, who suddenly solves intractable problems.

To take research beyond key-individuals on one hand, and external/structural factors (equally ready-made) on the other, seems crucial to me. The references put forward by Duncan Watts in Juan’s post are highly useful here (LeBon, Tolstoy, Berlin), as are the search for mechanisms like those Jon Norberg studies through the clean world of agent-based model experiments.

However, what is also badly needed in the field of resilience and social-ecological studies are more empirical work, and more theoretical constructs, frameworks and registers that allow us to appreciate the often messy but profoundly collective nature of transformative or revolutionary change. (These ways of doing research should also acknowledge that change processes will be quite different from place to place.) To study such change must necessarily be more than just dividing a process into ‘phases’, looking for ‘windows of opportunity’, and plug in certain individuals in the account who can ‘seize’ these windows and usher in a new way of doing things.

To the particular tedious task of doing empirical studies of transformations, there are probably various ways. So far, in my own work, I have especially built on social movement theory, a field that par excellence has studied transformative and revolutionary change. Here social movement scholar Mario Diani has showed how to use social network analysis to understand “network-level mechanisms”, which I view as:

“social actions made possible through, and emerging from, the patterns of relations between mobilizing actors, and thus dependent on the full structure of the social network, and not just the local surrounding of single actors” (Ernstson 2011, p. 258).

Another important Italian is Alberto Melucci, who used a constructionist and cultural approach to collective action, emphasizing that collective action needs to be constructed and that ‘structural’ or external factors are not enough to explain change since a practice of engagement is needed to translate ‘structural/external’ factors into tangible action. He also emphasized that collective action necessarily also produces or constructs new ways of knowing, thus necessarily upsetting and challenging dominating ways of knowing (and one needs to account for how such knowledge is constructed in and through collective action).

Thirdly, I have been drawing on scholars like Jonathan Murdoch, Bruno Latour, John Law and Annmarie Mol who use post-structuralist geography and actor-network theory (ANT). This body of scholarship decenters the human subject in studying change, and thus “reassembles the social” (Latour, 2005) so as to allow also non-humans to be part in constructing/producing collective action. This makes it possible as an analyst to stabilize accounts of ‘distributed agency’, where the ability for change resides among people and things, which together come to make up quite heterogeneous collectives. For instance, in my case study here in Cape Town (Ernstson 2011), certain plants seem to participate in modes of empowerment, and play an important role in stabilizing collectives that can carry action across space and time. For the Occupy Movement, tents, streets, squares and Internet seems key but exactly how these things are enrolled into a stabilization of collective action needs ethnographic engagement. Importantly however, careful analysis of such heterogeneous collectives can come to also show how alternative ways of knowing and becoming are produced in and through the same collectives that carry or produce action, and thus such analysis lends itself to study how collective action engages the world in epistemological and ontological politics. The latter seems key in any transformation worthy the name.

This was just a short burst in response to Juan’s interesting blog post. If anybody has more ideas on this, tips on empirical studies or theoretical treatise in the area of social-ecological studies that relates to this, please make contact, or post comments, as usual.

References

Ernstson, Henrik. 2011. “Transformative collective action: a network approach to transformative change in ecosystem-based management.” Pp. 255-287 in Social Networks and Natural Resource Management: Uncovering the Social Fabric of Environmental Governance, edited by Ö. Bodin and C. Prell. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Ernstson, Henrik. 2011. “Re-translating nature in post-apartheid Cape Town: the alliance of people and plants in generating collective action.” Presented at London School of Economics workshop on Actor-Network Theory in Development Studies, 3 July 2011 organized by Richard Heeks.

[Also posted on my blog http://www.rhizomia.net/]

Zizek interviewed by Al Jazeera on world protests and Occupy Wall Street

In his quite amazing, nerve-racking style, the Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek spins out a critique in an interview by Al Jazeera, a critique that homes in on the historical crisis of ‘our’ time, which we should read as a crisis of our economic system called capitalism. In commenting on what protesters across the world during this revolutionary and insurgent year of 2011, have been able to construct, he states:

The system has lost its self-evidence, its automatic legitimacy. And now the field is open. This is a very important achievement.

Click link to start video: Zizek interviewed by Al Jazeera about Occupy Wall Street

He contends, for instance, that what we might be experiencing, is a time when Western-led capitalism, which for a century has been able to combine exploitation with liberal democracy, is overtaken – or shown less effective – than a form of capitalism with, what he refers to has “Asian values”, a Chinese-Singaporean authoritarian capitalism. The liberalist argument, that capitalism will always sow the seeds of  democracy, under which we can all live reasonably well, as it did for instance in Spain (after Franco), in Chile (after Pinochet), and in many other countries in the world, might not longer hold true, Zizek means. It could be that the kind of capitalist model that is forged through China, outcompetes a western-liberal mode of capitalism. Zizek also laments the tragedy of Europe, which seems like a true tragedy, if the only alternatives Europe can construct for themselves is either a “Brussel bureaucratic model” that gives more of the same, or a nationalist anti-immigrant stance on the rise in European countries.

However, the most interesting part of the interview is when the Al Jazeera interviewer pushes the often sceptic Zizek to look for glimmers of hope in the protests we have been witnessing during 2011 (16m50s into the clip):

INTERVIEWER: “You are lamenting that the Left does not have a global remedy or approach to deal with a lot of these problems. Where would you see the glimmers of some kind of change?”
ZIZEK: “I think that what is already happening now is reason for modest optimism. Don’t expect miracles in the sense that all of a sudden there will be a magical solution. The beginning is simply that people should become aware that the difficulties we are confronting are not just the difficulties caused by bad greedy guys in an otherwise good system, but that we have to ask certain questions about the system as such. And this awareness is raising, this is what all the protests here [at the Occupy Wall Street] are about.  And I think that at this stage what is again important is not so much to offer fast solutions, but to break this, I call it ironically, ‘Fukuyama taboo’. [...] I mean, Fukuyama is not an idiot. In a way we all were until now Fukuyamaists. Even radical leftists were not thinking about what can replace capitalism… they were demanding more social justice, more rights for women within the system. The time has come to raise this more fundamental question. The system has lost its self-evidence, its automatic legitimacy. And now the field is open. This is a very important achievement.”

[There is another interview by Al Jazeera where Zizek further elaborates his views and outlook on for instance Climate Change, read more about it here: "The 'decaffinated' other": Zizek again at Al Jazeera on climate change, tolerance, and the post-political.]

This blogpost has been posted before at my blog In Rhizomia: http://www.rhizomia.net/2011/10/zizek-interviewed-by-al-jazeera-on.html

Social Networks and Natural Resource Management – New Book!

A new book has just been released that should interest the readers of this blog. The book has been excellently edited by Örjan Bodin and Christina Prell and is entitled “Social Networks and Natural Resource Management: Uncovering the Social Fabric of Environmental Governance” (you  find it at Cambridge or Amazon).

The book supports the growing subfield that uses network analysis to study social-ecological systems (see earlier post on “Trend Spotting”) and features a foreword by Carl Folke and chapters by several of the authors building and maturing this subfield, including: Beatrice Crona, Saudiel Ramirez-Sanchez, Mark Reed, Klaus Hubacek, David Tindall, Howard Harshaw, J. M. Taylor, Ken Frank, Annica Sandström, Marney Isaac, Evans Dawoe, and myself, Henrik Ernstson.

Please also read about and join NASEBERRY, our e-forum for this subfield.

Below follows the content of the book and an e-mail posted by editor Örjan Bodin on the INSNA list, the leading e-forum on social network analysis:

Letter to INSNA

Hi all!

Over the years there have been some discussions on this list about using SNA in studying natural resource management. This “subfield” has grown in interest, and now there is a fair amount of publications on the subject (see e.g. the Ecology & Society special issue ). In addition, this month a book entitled “Social networks and natural resource management: uncovering the social fabric of environmental governance” is released (see Cambridge or Amazon). The book is intended to provide an overview to this emerging field; offering case studies; critical reflections; research guidance; and some introductory material. [...]

Kind regards,

Dr. Örjan Bodin

Theme leader / Associate Professor, Stockholm Resilience Centre & Dept of Systems Ecology, Stockholm University

Content of the book

“Social networks and natural resource management: uncovering the social fabric of environmental governance”, Bodin and Prell (eds), 2011, Cambridge University Press:

Foreword Carl Folke

Part I. Introduction:

1. A social relational approach to natural resource governance, Örjan Bodin, Saudiel Ramirez-Sanchez, Henrik Ernstson and Christina Prell;

2. Some basic structural characteristics of networks Christina Prell;

3. Combining social network approaches with social theories to improve understanding of natural resource governance, Beatrice Crona, Henrik Ernstson, Christina Prell, Mark Reed and Klaus Hubacek;

Part II. Case Studies:

4. Barriers and opportunities in transforming to sustainable governance: the role of key individuals, Örjan Bodin and Beatrice Crona;

5. Social network analysis for stakeholder selection, Christina Prell, Mark Reed and Klaus Hubacek;

6. Who and how: engaging well-connected fishers in social networks to improve fisheries management and conservation, Saudiel Ramirez-Sanchez;

7. The effects of social network ties on the public’s satisfaction with forest management in British Columbia, Canada, David Tindall, Howard Harshaw and J. M. Taylor;

8. Social network models for natural resource use and extraction, Ken Frank;

9. Friends or neighbors? Subgroup heterogeneity and the importance of bonding and bridging ties in natural resource governance, Beatrice Crona and Örjan Bodin;

10. The role of individual attributes in the practice of information sharing among fishers from Loreto, BCS, Mexico, Saudiel Ramirez-Sanchez;

11. Transformative collective action: a network approach to transformative change in ecosystem-based management, Henrik Ernstson; (see blog post on this chapter here)

12. Social networks, joint image building and adaptability – the case of local fishery management, Annica Sandström;

13. Agrarian communication networks: consequences for agroforestry, Marney Isaac and Evans Dawoe;

Part III. Summary and Outlook:

14. Social network analysis in natural resource governance – summary and outlook, Örjan Bodin and Christina Prell

Trend Spotting: Network Analysis is Growing in Social-Ecological Studies

The network perspective and its accompanying style of analysis – social network analysis (SNA), and more generally network analysis – is a growing trend within the field of social-ecological studies and resilience research.

At the recent conference Resilience 2011, 11-16 March in Tempe, Arizona, USA, my quick overview after having been there noted a growing number of papers that were based on network analysis, or a network perspective, especially when compared with the number of network papers at the Resilience 2008 conference in Stockholm. Although a proper analysis needs to be made, it seems clear that the overall number of presentations were many more in 2011, but likely also the ratio of presentations in comparison with the total, and the scope of problems addressed. A new trend this time, although I did a presentation at the SUNBELT conference in Italy last year on the subject, was the focus and special session on ‘social-ecological network analysis’ (SENA).

Papers, books, and special sessions

To this trend we can add the growing number of published papers, chapters and books and special sessions at international conferences.

To mention a few key compilations of publications since 2008, there is the special issue in Ecology & Society from 2010 edited by Beatrice Crona and Klaus Hubacek and an upcoming book edited by Örjan Bodin and Christina Prell entitled “Social Networks and Natural Resource Management: Uncovering the Social Fabric of Environmental Governance” (the book can be pre-ordered). To the former I contributed with the paper “Scale-Crossing Brokers and Network Governance” (Ernstson et al. 2010), and to the latter with the chapter “Transformative Collective Action” being my take on studying collective action for transformation (in contrast to Ostrom’s theory for more stable arrangements)(read more here: Ernstson 2011; I also co-authored two chapters).* (Also see Graeme Cumming’s book “Spatial Resilience in Social-Ecological Systems“, and Christina Prell’s introductory book on SNA.)

To these publications there is also a growing number of special sessions that has been organized at conferences on how to use SNA in ecosystem governance studies, including at least: IHDP in Bonn 2009, SUNBELT 2010 in Trento, and now Resilience 2011 in Phoenix/Tempe. As evidence of a growing epistemic community, we can also add our e-group NASEBERRY, and the courses given during these last couple of years (e.g. this one).

Resilience Research & Networks: Workshop in Vienna 26 May With Top Scholars

What is penciled out above is of course just a quick “trend spotting” from my own constrained position in this emerging community. A more comprehensive overview is on the calendar. However, to somewhat broaden the horizon in this blog post, I picked up the following interesting high-profile workshop on “Resilience Research & Networks” organized by Dr. Harald Katzmair that will be held in Vienna on May 26th this year. As yet another example of an event that brings network analysis, resilience and social-ecological studies together, he writes in the announcement:

Resilience research is an ascendant paradigm aiming to explore the structural features of adaptive and robust ecosystems, societies, enterprises, and economies.  Network theory provides a robust language to better describe and understand those features. The workshop will bring together the fields of resilience research & network theory and will demonstrate their value for adaptive management and strategy development in politics, economy, environment, and society.

The talks of the speakers are focused around three guiding questions:

What is the evidence of resilience within a specific system?

What are the threats for resiliency in a specific system?

What role do networks play in the design of decision making structures?

I conclude my trend spotting with this seemingly very interesting workshop.

*Both the book and special issue serves as a very good introduction to network analysis in social-ecological studies, alongside other reading lists.

Marine parks, forced removal and global politics

Mauritius suing UK for marine park around US airbase

The Internet version of BBC News just released notice that the island nation of Mauritius is suing UK for legislating a Marine Protected Area around British islands close to Mauritius (1000 km). The reserve is named Chagos Marine Park, argued by then UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband to “double the global coverage of the world’s oceans under protection” (in April 2010). With its 545 000 sq-km area the are includes some 220 coral species (half the recorded species of the Indian Ocean), and more than 1,000 species of reef fish. However, the islands was before the 1960′s home to a local people that the British government forcefully removed to give space for a US military air base.

Diego Garcia, the largest island in the Chagos
archipelago and the site of a
US military base. Photograph: Reuters

The reserve is therefore hotly contested demonstrating with all clarity the multi-level politics of any natural resource management or biodiversity preservation project, and the various and contested ways by which human and nonhuman relations are being forged. Parsing from three BBC News articles from 2004-2010 (see here), and The Independent (here), a short story can be given on how geopolitics, national and international efforts of protecting biodiversity, overlap with ‘local’ dynamics, and the dignity of a people.


US air base and forced removal

People of Chago protesting for the
right to return to their island.

In the 1960s the British island colony was leased to the US for an air base, which since then has been in use, not least during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In leasing the island the British government took actions that forcefully removed some 2000 people living on the island, and moved them to the neighboring nation Mauritius. The removal was accomplished through that the British government bought the only company employing people on the island, and then closing the company down leaving island people without an income. This was paired with blocking goods coming to the island, leaving people without income and food forcing them to move.

The forced removal of people has, it seems, been converted to an argument for the current high biodiversity and good state of the ecosystems observed at the islands. This in turn has of course been made into an argument for conservation. As reported by The Independent:

The absence of human habitation has been a key factor in the preservation of the pristine coral atolls, the unpolluted waters, rare bird colonies and burgeoning turtle populations that give the archipelago its international importance.

The removed island people, the Chagossians, have run a case before in the British courts to return to their island. In 2008, the British Law Lords voted 3 against 2 in favor of the British government, but islanders continue their case. Although some of the islanders express that they could – in the event of them returning – co-live with a nature reserve if only some fishing and use of the area was allowed, others mean that it “would effectively bar them from returning“. This interpretation was enforced by the recent diplomatic cable released by Wikileaks, which also triggered the Mauritius government to sue the British government in the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea in Hamburg. In this cable, “[a] UK official is quoted as saying it should put an end to any possibility of the displaced islanders returning“, according to BBC News.

Scaled networks of power
This intriguing example draws together different networks and scales of power that generate not only dynamic debates, but also intervenes – and tries to intervene – in a certain physical space and its social-ecological dynamics. A recent move in political ecology has traced such scaled networks, partly drawing on actor-network theory, see e.g. work by Erik Swyngedouw [2, 3] and Nik Heynen.

In Chagos these scaled networks seems to be mainly shaped through historical connections to colonial power and empire ambitions, cold war geopolitics, scientific community networks of fact-making, national sovereignty claims, and local identity and claim-making.

Whereas local residents were robbed of their homes, dwellings and resources, the British government could earn money on the strategic position of this old colony lying close to the Middle East by leasing it to the escalating military ambitions of post-war US. A side-effect of this, it seems, was to sustain well-working ecological functions in the seas around the islands, preserving species and habitats being lost elsewhere due to fishing and other exploitation activities.

Enter the international community of scientists, that by the time of 1990′s had produced arguments and facts of why these types of protected areas are globally important for the protection of marine species on scales greater than just the islands. In confronting the many thousands of fishing vessels and distant fish markets that put global pressure on marine ecosystems, Marine Protected Areas are thought to function as havens and sources of species in networks of energy exchange and species interaction over greater spatial scales. A speculation is then that the quoted UK official, and Mr Milliband, could use the weight of these natural scientifically produced facts to effectively also put an end to the claims by the Chagossians, and come out as triumphant savers of the seas at the same time.

Similar cases of how scaled networks influence especially land-based protected areas are plenty in the literature, however, this is one of the most intriguing marine examples I have heard of. Furthermore, the current suing process by Mauritius, and the reason why Chago Archipelago again became news, is due to another novel network of power, namely WikiLeaks, whose activities continue to ripple through the interconnected world of media.

Note: The different articles from BBC News can be found here, here, here, and here. More on this news and the Chago Archipelago, see here.

Green light for IPBES

UN agreed to establish the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).

IPBES write hopefully on their homepage

This is a major event in the world of biodiversity and ecosystem services as the IPCC-like platform will bridge the gulf between the wealth of scientific  knowledge on the accelerating declines and degradation of the natural world, with knowledge on effective solutions and decisive government action required to reverse these damaging trends.

Books of the decade in ecocultural theory

Screen shot from the blog “immanence” by Adrian J Ivakhiv

On his blog “immanence“, Adrian J Ivakhiv,  proposes an interesting list of the “books of the decade in ecocultural theory”. Please, check the whole list at his blog.

The three first books are by (1) William E. Connolly on Neuropolitics, (2) Arturo Escobar on social movements and ecological-cultural dynamics, and (3) Graham Harman on Latour and metaphysics.

He also lists several other interesting books that did not make it to the top ten, including books by Bruce Braun, Sarah Whatmore, Alf Hornborg, Donna Haraway, Tim Ingold, Bruno Latour, Doreen Massey, and John Law amongst several others.

Here follows the top three, including Adrian’s personal motivation:

The Immanence ‘Top 10′

1. William E. Connolly, Neuropolitics: Thinking, Culture, Speed (University of Minnesota Press, 2002) — This was the book that most coherently and provocatively connected together the entire set of interests I had been grappling with at the time — consciousness, neuroscience, affect/emotion, religious experience, the potentials of film and media, and, centrally, the possibilities for political and cultural change in our time. Connolly’s work in political theory has continually pushed far beyond the bounds of that field. While his Pluralism and the forthcoming A World of Becoming may signify a certain fruition of his thinking, his articulation of the thickly entwined interconnections between biology and culture in Neuropolitics, under the rubric of “immanent naturalism,” provocatively set out a range of avenues of exploration, which this blog has been active in pursuing and documenting.

2. Arturo Escobar, Territories of Difference: Place, Movements, Life, Redes (Duke University Press, 2008) — A tremendous synthesis that places social movements — actual people doing things together to change their worlds — at the center of thinking for how the ecological-cultural dynamic is changing in our time. Other books of environmental anthropology (by Anna Tsing, Paige West, and others) and of political ecology (by Paul Robbins, Biersack and Greenberg, and others) could be on this list, but Escobar engages conversations across these fields and others in the most provocative and satisfying ways.

3. Graham Harman, Prince of Networks: Bruno Latour and Metaphysics (re.press, 2009) — While Harman’s Tool-Being and Guerrilla Metaphysics may be his more lasting philosophical contributions, this book, which first brought anthropologist of science Bruno Latour firmly into the ambit of philosophy, introduced me — and judging by internet activity, many others — to the growing movement of post-Continental-philosophical “speculative realism.” As a movement that tries to theorize the make-up of the world in ways that completely avoid traditional dualisms (culture/nature, society/ecology, etc.), it’s a breath of fresh philosophical air, and one that has influenced the development of this blog much more than I could have known when I started it.

In presenting his blog, Adrian’s writes:

[The blog is an] online space for environmental cultural theory, this weblog has two primary objectives: (1) To communicate about issues at the intersection of ecological, political, and cultural thought and practice [... and] (2) To contribute to the development of a non-dualist understanding of nature/culture, mind/body, spirit/matter, structure/agency, and worldly relations in general.

Scale-crossing brokers: new theoretical tools to analyze adaptive capacity

Social network structure for ecosystem governance.

Social network structure matters for adaptive capacity. A key position are 'scale-crossing brokers' that link actors interacting with ecosystem processes at different ecological scales.

Together with colleagues from Stockholm University we have just published an article in Ecology and Society called:

Scale-crossing brokers and network governance of urban ecosystem services: the case of Stockholm

Henrik Ernstson, Stephan Barthel, Erik Andersson and Sara T. Borgström, Ecology and Society 2010: 15 (4), 28.

The article synthesizes empirical studies of urban ecological management in Stockholm. However, it also contributes to the theoretical discussions on adaptive governance of social-ecological systems (e.g. special issue in Global Environmental Change, Folke et al. 2005, Duit and Galaz, 2008). As such, the article is of interest for studies in marine, forest and agricultural systems.

Here I present some key theoretical ideas. (See also blog at Stockholm Resilience Centre.).

Framework for assessing adaptive capacity – linking ecological processess and social network structure

The article builds a theoretical framework that links ecological processes to social network structures to assess the adaptive capacity of ecosystem governance. In effect, the article pushes present theorizations in at least three aspects: 1) spatial complexity, 2) the role of social network structure, and 3) how to handle cross-scale interactions.

1) Spatial complexity

First, it builds a framework to more explicitly account for spatial complexity (and thus the complexity of the ‘resource’ in question). This is primarily done through empirically focus on the ecological processes of seed-dispersal and pollination, which are processes important for the re-generation and resilience of local ecosystems in the fragmented urban landscape of Stockholm.

2) Social network structure as intermediate variable

Second, the paper ‘looks’ beyond individual actors and their direct ties to others (often the case in the literature on for instance ‘bridging organizations’). Instead, actors that interact with ecological processes are seen as embedded in patterns of communication and social relations. This means that the paper acknowledges ‘social network structure’ and how this intermediate variable (not individual, not institution) mediates the agency of single actors, and the performance of the whole network to respond to change.

To capture social dynamics we take the idea from sociology that, just as ecological patches are part of greater scale patterns, social actors are part of emergent social network structures that constrain and shape social dynamics (Wasserman and Faust 1994). […] social network patterns are consequently an outcome of localized interactions between pairs of actors, and no actor can fully control the emergent structure. [This] allows for human agency, but an agency constrained and mediated through the network structure itself (Emirbayer and Goodwin 1994).

3) Cross-scale interactions and scale-crossing brokers

Third, the paper pushes the understanding of what it would mean for a set of identifiable actors to handle cross-scale interactions in social-ecological systems. This is done through developing a network model of how certain actor groups engage in ecological processes at different scales through their social practice, and to theorize a key network position called ‘scale-crossing broker’ (building on Burt’s notion of brokers):

Thus, by accounting for the structure of social networks between actor groups, and how they link to ecological scales, our resulting model consists of actor groups interacting both with each other and with ecosystem processes at different spatial scales, and at spatially separate sites [see figure at top].

A final central aspect of our model is the network position of scale-crossing broker [which is defined] as a social network position that links otherwise disconnected social actor groups which, through their social practices, interact with ecosystem processes at different ecological (and spatial) scales and at different physical sites.

In relation to the discussion on how governance systems can cope with slow changes on one hand, and rapid changes on the other, our answer indicates that we must look for this in the social network structure that links various actors across scales. In that sense, the scale-crossing broker becomes “a crossroad for possibilities” and could facilitate the “switching” between supporting localized social learning processes (in times of slow change), and centralized collective action (in times of rapid change):

Scale-crossing brokers can be seen as agents for nurturing the emergence of a purposeful social network structure, and for switching between a centralized collective action mode and a decentralized mode of social learning among a diverse set of local autonomous actor groups.

Assessing governance systems

As such, the scale-crossing broker becomes an analytical lens to use when assessing empirical governance systems. Upcoming research should thus aim to measure the extent to which you can find scale-crossing brokers in a particular system. Another such assessment tool lies in our conceptualization of a meso-scale in governance in the form of ‘city-scale green networks’ (see figure below).

In conclusion, and apart from its empirical findings not touched upon in this blog, the paper can be seen as bringing new theoretical ideas on how to discuss and analyze social-ecological complexity and adaptive capacity. For more information see the paper itself, the blog-post at Stockholm Resilience Centre, or my own blog In Rhizomia.

The article is part of a special issue in Ecology and Society on social network analysis and natural resource management.

Governance of complex ecological processes

Fig. 4. The figure demonstrates how one could identify the city scale green networks of pollination and seed dispersal in a particular area of Stockholm (suggested here by using digital mapping and ecological network analysis (cf. Andersson and Bodin 2008)). Note how certain local green areas are shared between the two city scale green networks, which give rise to network overlap (purple areas with bold vertical lines in city scale green network 2). Furthermore, it is suggested that midscale managers can take responsibility for particular city scale green networks. Taken as a whole, the figure demonstrates how particular ecosystem services can be viewed as embedded both in the physical landscape and within social networks of local actor groups (managing local green areas), scale-crossing brokers, and municipal to regional actors.

Reading list: Using social network analysis (SNA) in social-ecological studies

The emergent field that uses social network analysis (SNA) to analyze social-ecological systems and problems in natural resource management is growing. For those interested in reading into this field, I thought I share a reading list I am preparing for a PhD course on SNA that I will give at Arizona State University in connection to the Resilience 2011 Conference. The course is only open for ASU students, but for those interested you read more on my blog In Rhizomia [www.rhizomia.net]. If you are interested in discussing network analysis in social-ecological studies, there is, as I have mentioned before on this blog, an e-list called NASEBERRY that you can join (e-mail me at henrik.ernstson[AT]stockholmresilience.su.se and let me know).

Example of literature on SNA in NRM (to be completed and might change)

This is a selective reading list for those interested in starting to use social network analysis (SNA) in social-ecological studies.

The first good empirical study using social network analysis in the social-ecological field is by Schneider et al. (2003) on collaborative networks in estuary management. Together with Örjan Bodin and Beatrice Crona we summarized a set of arguments for the value of SNA for NRM studies in Bodin, Crona and Ernstson (2006), whereas a summary of empirical studies were made later (Bodin and Crona 2009). Christina Prell, Klaus Hubacek, Mark Reed and others have published on stakeholder selection and social learning (Prell et al. 2009), and Saduiel Ramirez-Sanchez has studied fisheries in Mexico (Ramirez-Sanchez and Pinkerton 2009). A good study for those interested in dynamic policy proceses is by Sandström and Carlsson (2008). An interesting application using 2-mode network analysis was recently made by Andrés Marín and Fikret Berkes on small-scale fisheris in Chile (Marín and Berkes 2010). (In an upcoming book edited by Bodin and Prell several of these authors are contributing with chapters, and some of our chapters might replace some of the articles in the final reading list of the course.)

One of the first urban applications using SNA in social-ecological studies was my study of social movements and the protection of urban ecosystems in Stockholm (Ernstson et al. 2008)(See also connection to cultural framing theory and qualitative data (using ANT) in Ernstson and Sörlin (2009).). This has lead to an articulation of “transformative collective action” in an upcoming chapter (Ernstson accepted). Together with collegues, we used social network theory to understand adaptive governance through synthesizing several urban case studies in Stockholm (Ernstson et al. 2010) that could be useful for all interested in multi-scale governance and social learning. An inspiration for me when it comes to urban areas, social movements and social networks has always bin Mario Diani (see e.g. Diani (1992), Diani and McAdam (2003), and Diani and Bison (2004). More urban social-ecological studies using SNA are forthcoming, partly as a result of when I gave this course in 2009 in Cape Town. Students from that .)

The above mentioned references can serve as entry point to the course (those marked with * below are less central), but should be complemented with the following from the SNA field: the short but effective review by Borgatti et al. (2009), the classic by Granovetter (1973), and the very useful SNA textbook and handbook to UCINET by Hanneman and Riddle (2005) (downloable for free, see below). Other good textbooks are Scott’s (2000) and Degenne and Forsé’s (1999). For those getting serious (!), a must-have is still the SNA “cookbook” by Wasserman and Faust (1994). The exact reading list might however still change.

References
(Those marked with * in the list indicates that you can initially skip these. Those marked with ** have notes at the end).

Bodin, Ö., B. Crona, and H. Ernstson. 2006. Social networks in natural resource management: What is there to learn from a structural perspective? Ecology and Society 11:r2. URL: http://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol11/iss2/resp2/

Bodin, Ö. and B. I. Crona. 2009. The role of social networks in natural resource governance: What relational patterns make a difference? Global Environmental Change 19:366-374. URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2009.05.002

Borgatti, S. P., A. Mehra, D. J. Brass, and G. Labianca. 2009. Network analysis in the social sciences. Science 323:892-895. [Longer pre-publication pdf version can be found on Stephen Borgatti's homepage here.]

Crona, B. and Ö. Bodin. 2006. WHAT you know is WHO you know? Communication patterns among resource users as a prerequisite for co-management. Ecology and Society 11:7. URL: http://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol11/iss2/art7/

**Degenne, A. and M. Forsé. 1999. Introducing Social Networks. Sage Publications, London. [Review for this book can be found here.]

*Diani, M. 1992. The concept of social movement. Sociological Review 40:1-25.

*Diani, M. and I. Bison. 2004. Organizations, coalitions and movements. Theory and Society 33:281-309.

*Diani, M. and D. McAdam, editors. 2003. Social Movements and Networks: Relational Approaches to Collective Action. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Ernstson, H. accepted. Transformative collective action: a network approach to transformative change in ecosystem-based management. Page Ch 11 in Ö. Bodin and C. Prell, editors. Social Networks and Natural Resource Management: Uncovering the Social Fabric of Environmental Governance. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Ernstson, H., S. Barthel, E. Andersson, and S. T. Borgström. 2010. Scale-crossing brokers and network governance of urban ecosystem services: The case of Stockholm, Sweden. Ecology and Society:in press.

*Ernstson, H. and S. Sörlin. 2009. Weaving protective stories: connective practices to articulate holistic values in Stockholm National Urban Park. Environment and Planning A 41:1460–1479.

Ernstson, H., S. Sörlin, and T. Elmqvist. 2008. Social movements and ecosystem services – the role of social network structure in protecting and managing urban green areas in Stockholm. Ecology and Society 13:39. URL: http://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol13/iss2/art39/

Granovetter, M. 1973. The strength of weak ties. American Journal of Sociology 76:1360-1380.

**Hanneman, R. A. and M. Riddle. 2005. Introduction to Social Network Methods. University of California (published in digital form at http://faculty.ucr.edu/~hanneman/), Riverside, CA.

Marín, A. and F. Berkes. 2010. Network approach for understanding small-scale fisheries governance: The case of the Chilean coastal co-management. Marin Policy in press.

Prell, C., K. Hubacek, and M. Reed. 2009. Stakeholder Analysis and Social Network Analysis in Natural Resource Management. Society & Natural Resources 22:501-518.

Ramirez-Sanchez, S. and E. Pinkerton. 2009. The impact of resource scarcity on bonding and bridging social capital: the case of fishers’ information-sharing networks in Loreto, BCS, Mexico. Ecology and Society 14:22.

Sandström, A. and L. Carlsson. 2008. The performance of policy networks: the relation between network structure and network performance. Policy Studies Journal 36:497-524.

Schneider, M., J. Scholz, M. Lubell, D. Mindruta, and M. Edwardsen. 2003. Building consensual institutions: networks and the National Estuary Program. American Journal of Political Science 47:143-158.

**Scott, J. 2000. Social Network Analysis. A handbook. 2 edition. Sage Publications, London.

Wasserman, S. and K. Faust. 1994. Social Network Analysis: Methods and Applications. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

** As textbook, choose either Scott, or Degenne and Forsé. Hanneman and Riddle can also be used as a textbook, but is also an instructive manual for UCINET.

Download Hanneman and Riddle 2005 here (it’s freeware): http://faculty.ucr.edu/~hanneman/nettext/
Or here.

Short about the SNA course in Phoenix

Using Social Network Analysis in (Urban) Social-Ecological StudiesPhD course 6-8 March, 2011 at Arizona State University. Given by Dr Henrik Ernstson, African Centre for Cities, University of Cape Town, & Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University.

The course will start in January with reading and essay writing and then have three intense days in Phoenix, 6-8 March, 2011. The main aim is to help students to develop their own empirical case studies. I am not sure yet, but I believe the course will only be open to ASU students (having 10 participants).

Through this course you will:
- Learn about social network theory and methods
- Get the chance to develop your own case study
- Attain basic skills in analyzing empirical data with UCINET software
- Discuss how network analysis can be paired with qualitative methods and theories
- Discuss natural resource management and social-ecology from a network perspective

If you are an ASU student, you can apply through sending an e-mail to me (henrik.ernstson[AT]stockholmresilience.su.se).

More information on my blog In Rhizomia (SNA course).

[This post was originally posted on my blog In Rhizomia]