Challenges to Comprehension Implied by the Logo
of Laetus in Praesens
University of Earth Alternative view of segmented documents via Kairos

1973

Networking Concept as Applied to Information Systems

- / -


Notes for a confarence on the networking concept of the International Referral Service of the United Nations Environment Programme (Heidelberg, December 1973)


Networking principles; an attempt at a set of guidelines.
Profile of information network in terms of interactions with different users.
Summary of information network strategy components.
Possible contribution of the UIA to the UNEP Information network.


Networking principles; an attempt at a set of guidelines.

[Text adapated from: The World Network of Organizations. International Associations., 24. 1. 1972, pp. 10-24 and The Nature of Organizations in Transnational Networks (Paper presented at the conference of the International Studies Association, Dallas, 1972) and Inter-organizational Relationships; in search of a new style (conclusion of a seminar report to reflect on the network of international associations)]

The problem for transnational organizations is to develop a way of increasing the dynamism and strength of their networks without retreating to the unsuccessful formula of the coordinating umbrella body -- which is probably following the dinosaurs into social history. The following sections attempt to identify some characteristics of the new approach required. The challenge is to develop information systems which facilitate and catalyze [rather than organize) the development of such networks to the benefit of all participating bodies and the social system within which they function.

Principles:

  1. Networks of information and other flows tend to develop wherever there is a need for contact between existing social actors whether or not the action or the communication is approved. The network is a more adequate response to a complex problem environment than a minimally and formally connected set of hierarchical institutions. If necessary networks become unofficial and by-pass or undermine accepted channels to create adequate contact.
  2. Networks decrease in effectiveness and in attractiveness to potential participants to the extent that any particular body or group of bodies within the network attempts to structure it to favour their own ends or their own conception of the nature of the programes which participants should undertake.
  3. The budget load of operating a network for the benefit of one body or group of bodies increases with the number of organizations encoded in the data system, unless means are found toinvolve such organizations as full participants so that it is in their own interest to ensure the dynamism of the network's operations to contribute data and possibly funds.

Style:

The network style may tentatively be characterized by:

  1. emphasis on the contribution of special knowledge, competence, and experience by any appropriate transnational organization to the common task of any ad hoc group of transnational organizations set up for a specific task.
  2. the "realistic" nature of the program of any transnational organization which is seen as set by its perception of the most significant problems for which it is competent, in terms of the information which it has managed to receive.
  3. the adjustment and continual redefinition by each transnational organization of its programs through interaction with and in response to others: the net work is conceived as constantly changing and evolving, sub-networks of transnational organizations with a special interest in common come into existence for any required period; transnational organizations may each be participating in any number of such partial networks; partial networks are deliberately terminated when no longer useful.
  4. the shedding of "responsibility" as a limited field of rights, obligations and methods (e.g. world problems may not be systematically ignored as being some other organization's sole responsibility)
  5. the spread of commitment of a transnational organization to society on a whole beyond any technical definition of programs or legal definitions of constitution or statutes
  6. a network structure of control, authority, and communication; the sanctions which apply to the individual transnational association's conduct in its working relations derive more from presumed community of interest with the rest ofthe network in the survival and evolution of the open society, and less from any temporary contractual relationship between the organization and some body recognized as coordinator for the program in question.
  7. omniscience no longer imputed to key organizations in the network; knowledge about the economic, social, cultural, scientific, technical, etc. problems of the immediate task may be located anywhere in the organizational network; this location may, if appropriate, became the ad hoc centre of control, authority, and communication for that task.
  8. lateral rather than vertical direction of communication through the network, communication between organizations of different status; consultative contacts are emphasized with each participant adjusting its programs in consequence if it perceives such adjustment to be warranted
  9. a content of communication between bodies which consists of information and advice rather than instructions and decisions
  10. commitment to the problems of the development of the open society is more highly valued than loyalty and obedience to the individual transnational association
  11. importance and prestige attach to affiliation of the transnational organization to professional, scientific, or cultural networks not directly concerned with the transnational organization's immediate program tasks.

Each of these points concerning inter-organizational relations may require some adjustment in the internal organization of the transnational organization end more specifically to. the way the organization conceives itself. Although comment has been restricted to the transnational association network, this is clearly intimately related to the network of governmental agencies to that of business enterprises and to that of the academic community.

Comment:

The organizational network is an "organic" form appropriate to today's rapidlychanging conditions which constantly give rise to fresh problems and unforeseen requirements for action -- requirements which cannot be rapidly and satisfactorily distributed to organizations working in isolation within rigidly defined programs. The network, permits all the decentralization necessary to satisfy the need for autonomous organizational development and individual initiative. It also provides for very rapid centralization, canalization, and focusing of resources the moment any complex problem (or natural disaster) emerges which requires the talents of a particular configuration or constellation of transnational organizations (or other bodies). The centralization is only binding on the transnational organizations concerned with the problem in question, and for the period during which they have "common cause" and in no way affects others in the network. The network is, furthermore multidimensional in character since transnational organizations may centralize themselves to different extents in many different partial networks and at the same time decentralize (or disassociate] themselves on other issues.

The network is not "coordinated" by any body: the participating bodies coordinate themselves so that one may speak of "autocoordination" rather than coordination. Similarly, the network as a whole is not "directed" or "controlled" by any body rather it is "self-directing" and self-adapting.

Profile of Information Network in Terms of Interaction with Different Users
Information Network in Terms of Interaction with Different Users

 

Summary of Information Network Strategy Components

Only the major strategic choices are indicated here, since many intermediate options could not be detailed without obscuring the main points.

It should be noted that each of the following strategies could be envisaged:

Strategy l: Single-level (e.g. international or regional or national or local)

1.1 Information is obtained by the network center in order to increase the effectiveness of the center's own programs

Types   1.1 1.2
    single
(eg governmental or nongovernmental)
multiple
(eg governmental and business)
Purpose Policy/strategy    
  Program administration    
  Clearing house    
  Research/modelling    
  Education    
  Public information    
Comment the typical closed information system in which, unless massive finding is supplied, the data is always out of date and the system unused (in preference to one-off studies with new data)

 

Strategy 2: Multi-level (e.g. international and regional and national and local)

2.1 Information supplied to the network center by bodies it recognizes in order to increase the effectiveness of the center's own programs

Types   2.1.1 2.1.2
    single
(eg governmental or nongovernmental)
multiple
(eg governmental and business)
Purpose Policy/strategy    
  Program administration    
  Clearing house    
  Research/modelling    
  Education    
  Public information    
Comment an ideal strategy for the center which rarely works because there is no incentive for the contributing bodies to continue supplying information -- they only receive in exchange the moral satisfaction of having helped the center.

 

2.2 Information supplied to the network center by bodies, recognized by the center, in order to increase the effectiveness of the center's own programs

Types   2.2.1 2.2.2
    single
(eg governmental or nongovernmental)
multiple
(eg governmental and business)
Purpose Policy/strategy    
  Program administration    
  Clearing house    
  Research/modelling    
  Education    
  Public information    
Comment an ideal strategy oven less likely to succeed than 2.1, because the contributing bodies do not even have the moral satisfaction of being recognized by the network center

 

2.3Information supplied to the network center by bodies, recognized by the center, in order to increase the effectiveness of the center's own programs

Types   2.3.1 2.3.2
    single
(eg governmental or nongovernmental)
multiple
(eg governmental and business)
Purpose Policy/strategy    
  Program administration    
  Clearing house    
  Research/modelling    
  Education    
  Public information    
Comment an ideal strategy oven less likely to succeed than 2.1, because the contributing bodies do not even have the moral satisfaction of being recognized by the network center

 

2.4Information supplied to the network center by bodies, recognized by the center or not, in order to increase the effectiveness of their own programs

Types   2.4.1 2.4.2
    single
(eg governmental or nongovernmental)
multiple
(eg governmental and business)
Purpose Policy/strategy    
  Program administration    
  Clearing house    
  Research/modelling    
  Education    
  Public information    
Comment as for 2.3 but in this case the facilitative approach is extended to bodies not formally recognized by the center. The center must here assume that any body which seeks to participate in this way must in sore way be contributing to the achievement of the center's program objectives. Clearly since the barrier of recognition is removed, many more bodies would be able to participate. Clearly the center must allow for a certain amount of "wastage" but this should be more than compensated by the increase in participation over 2.3

 

2.5 Information supplied by the network center to bodies it recognizes in order to increase theeffectiveness of the center's own programs

Types   2.5.1 2.5.2
    single
(eg governmental or nongovernmental)
multiple
(eg governmental and business)
Purpose Policy/strategy    
  Program administration    
  Clearing house    
  Research/modelling    
  Education    
  Public information    
Comment information is supplied to recognized bodies to help than to perceive the most useful program, in the light of the political and priority constraints imposed upon the center. The recognized bodies are expected to act in accordance with the insights disseminated by the center, to the benefit of the center's own programs. This strategy may alienate many bodies which are motivated by problems or programa which have not(yet) received theapprobation of the center. This strategy does not encourage pariphery bodies to take any initiative and requires that theyrespond toevery change in the priorities of the centre

 

2.6Information supplied by the network center to bodies, recognized by the center or not, in order to increase the effectiveness of the center's own programs.

Types   2.6.1 2.6.2
    single
(eg governmental or nongovernmental)
multiple
(eg governmental and business)
Purpose Policy/strategy    
  Program administration    
  Clearing house    
  Research/modelling    
  Education    
  Public information    
Comment

as with 2.5, except that the strategy is even less likely to succeed because the bodies in question are not even recognized. This strategy can only succeed if accompanied by a powerful public relations program by which "belief in the wisdom of the center is built up.

 

2.7Infomation supplied by the network center to bodies it recognizes in order to increase the effectiveness of their own programs

Types   2.7.1 2.7.2
    single
(eg governmental or nongovernmental)
multiple
(eg governmental and business)
Purpose Policy/strategy    
  Program administration    
  Clearing house    
  Research/modelling    
  Education    
  Public information    
Comment this is the counterpart to 2.3. in which the center actively seeks to supply the periphery bodies with information in a form which enables them to improve the effectiveness of their own programs. Again the canter must assume, particularly since it has recognized the bodies, that their programs must be closely related to the objectives of those of the center. This actively facilitative attitude would be very attractive to bodies which it was hoped to attract into the network.

 

2.8Information supplied by the network canter to bodies, recognized by the center or not, in order to increase the effectiveness of their own programs

Types   2.8.1 2.8.2
    single
(eg governmental or nongovernmental)
multiple
(eg governmental and business)
Purpose Policy/strategy    
  Program administration    
  Clearing house    
  Research/modelling    
  Education    
  Public information    
Comment as for 2.7, but in this case (as in 2.4) the center must assume that any body responding to its information, whether recognized or not must be interested in usingit to further objectivesclosely related to those of the center. Again any wastage would be compensated by themuch greater involvement of the periphery bodies.

 

2.9 Information supplied at the network periphery by bodies recognized by the center in order to increase the achievement of the center's program objectives at that point on the periphery

Types   2.9.1 2.9.2
    single
(eg governmental or nongovernmental)
multiple
(eg governmental and business)
Purpose Policy/strategy    
  Program administration    
  Clearing house    
  Research/modelling    
  Education    
  Public information    
Comment

in terms of this strategy, the information network functions as a system at the disposal of recognized bodies which allows then to hold and process the information they need in order to further the objectives of the center's programs as they are perceived by the periphery. This strategy would be used to increase the effectiveness of local bodies.

 

2.10Information supplied at the network periphery by bodies, recognized by the center or not, in order to increase the achievement of the center's program objectives at the point on the periphery

Types   2.10.1 2.10.2
    single
(eg governmental or nongovernmental)
multiple
(eg governmental and business)
Purpose Policy/strategy    
  Program administration    
  Clearing house    
  Research/modelling    
  Education    
  Public information    
Comment as for 2.9, but in this case any body wishing to make use of the system could do so provided that the use contributed in some way towards the center's program objectives. Clearly this would encourage more bodies to participate than 2.10.

 

2.11 Information supplied at the network periphery by bodies, recognized by the center, in order to increase the effectiveness of their own programs

Types   2.11.1 2.11.2
    single
(eg governmental or nongovernmental)
multiple
(eg governmental and business)
Purpose Policy/strategy    
  Program administration    
  Clearing house    
  Research/modelling    
  Education    
  Public information    
Comment

in this case recognized bodies are encouraged to use the system to increase the effectiveness of their own programs, the assumptionbeing that, since they have been approved, their programs, whatever they may be, must in some way contribute towards the center's program objectives

 

2.12Information supplied at the network periphery by bodies, recognized by the center or not, in order to increase the effectiveness of their own programs

Types   2.12.1 2.12.2
    single
(eg governmental or nongovernmental)
multiple
(eg governmental and business)
Purpose Policy/strategy    
  Program administration    
  Clearing house    
  Research/modelling    
  Education    
  Public information    
Comment as for 2.11, but in this case (as in 2.4) the center must assume that any periphery body that wants to use the system must he in some way contributing towards its program objectives. Again the wastage is compensated by the increased participation achievedsincetherecognitionbarriers removed.

 

 

Comment: the network center performs the function of processing theinformation from bodies it recognizes in order to enable them to improve the effectiveness of the proprams they have developed independently of the center. The center must assume, partly because the body was worth recognizing in the first place, that the programs it will develop will contribute to the center's program objectives. Because of the facilitative policy adopted by the network center, more bodies would participate through this strategy. (The center passively receives information in this case, in contrast to 2.7)

Possible contribution of the Union of International Associations to the UNEP information network

The unionofInternational Associations collects and processes information on international organizations (ca.4000) and the world-wide problems with which they are concerned. This information is being progressively stored onto magnetic media from which a variety of typographically formatted reference books are produced. The filestructureis such that programs can ho used to retrieve particular kinds of data. It is possible that some uses of this data base could beenvisaged in collaboration with UNEP.

Data base

1. Organizationdirectories

The main files already held on magnetic tape are:

These files are used to produce the English and French editions of the 1000 page Yearbook of International Organizations.

Those organizations with environmental concerns have specially coded. The entries for those organizations could be extracted into a special mini-directory. This could also be done for the index references to the organizations selected.

2. International meeting calendars

It is proposed to use the existing system to process the data on some 2000 future meetings currently incorporated into the annual International Congress Calendar and its monthly supplements.

As in the previous case, it could be possible to produce mini-calendars by subject or other grouping.

3. International meeting report bibliographies

It is also proposed to use the existing system to process the bibliographical data on the reports of the meetings which are incorporated into the Yearbook of International Congress Proceedings.

As in the previous case, it could be possible to produce mini-bibliographies by subject or other grouping.

4. World problem directories

Data input for the production of a Yearbook of World Problems has already commended. This will use the existing system. The data is made up of

It is planned to includesome 3000-5000 problems.

As in the previous cases, mini-directories covering environmental problems could be produced.

Facilities

1.It is hoped that it will be very shortly possible to permit bodies such as UNEP specify what elements from the data base, constituted by the above files, they wish have incorporated into a mini-directory of their own design.

2. It is hoped that it will facilitate introduction by the collaborating body of its own specialmaterial,where the UIA date is consideredin any way incomplete. In other words, at last minute edit facility.

creative commons license
this work is licenced under a creative commons licence.