The idea of networks has in the recent decade rapidly risen to a top position in a long series of disciplines. Given that network is a key concept in space syntax theory and methodology, this paper investigates the origins and later development of network analysis in the adjacent fields of sociologyand geography, not least since networks often are seen as a language that can connect and translate between systems and phenomena addressed in different disciplines. The overarching aim in the paper is to contribute to a more precise understanding of what network concept actually is in use in space syntax and, in extension, what this particular version has to offer the larger and more established disciplines of sociology and geography.
In sociology we find an initial discourse on networks already in Georg Simmel that to a certain degreechallenged the conception of sociology strongly promoted by the more powerful Émile Durkheim, but was later lost. The concept of networks, however, remerged, not least in the work of John Scott that made direct references to the emergence of network analysis in geography. In geography we find networks to be an intrinsic part of the quantitative revolution in the 1950s and 60s, heralded by Peter Haggett and others, where networks were promoted as an alternative to the regional approach in geography. This opens for an exciting vista of geometric foundations of geography, with pertinent repercussions also for architecture.
However, this is clearly to move between distinctly different conceptions of networks; between what we can call social, physical, and cognitive networks. With this distinction in mind, there is a possibility to more precisely position networks as conceptualised in space syntax. Socially, networks in space syntax are representations of, what Durkheim referred to as, social morphology, which distinctly can never reach beyond the threshold of sociology but deals with “material substratum of society”, which thereby offers a distinct identity and limit to the field of space syntax. Geographically, space syntax thus represents a peculiar form of network analysis demarcated by the physical fact of the city. Such ontology of ‘regional networks’ (cf. Jessop) is not unusual in geography, but fundamentally alien to the contemporary concept of networks found within sociology, emphasizing networks as an ontological alternative to such region-thinking (Latour, Scott). Finally, and possibly most originally, representations of networks in space syntax seem to develop a particular strand of advanced cognitive geometry that extends and complements the aims of behavioural and cognitive geography.
Sejong University Press , 2013.