So, I drove 5 hours one way to visit my family this weekend. I went because I was supposed to get a free phone (the new Droid model). At the end of the trip, I'm now back in my own town, but with no phone.


As it turns out, there's a larger town about 45 minutes away. Verizon evidently has a policy in which stores at bigger urban areas can take the phones distributed to the smaller urban areas. So, Searcy, Arkansas got the phones that had originally been distributed to Batesville. The irony is that all of the phones were then taken from the Searcy store by the Little Rock store.


So, we've got this interesting picture of flow. First, the phones were distributed (flowed) more evenly across the Arkansas geography. Then, the phones began to re-flow to concentrate in urban centers.


The reasoning given by Horizon is that they could more redily sell the phones in Little Rock. I'm sure there's data to demonstrate greater likelihoods of moving high-end, expensive phones in Little Rock. However, I think that it's about enticement as well. There's simply more people in Little Rock, meaning that the use of the latest version of the phone will be exposed to more people, helping to increase demand, and thus sales, of the device.


I think it might have been David Harvey who once posited that the flows of cultural forms followed the flows of people. This idea makes sense, as it's less likely for music, holidays, etc. to crop up in an area where no practicioners are located.


Following Harvey's logic should we also talk about the flow of materials following the flows of capital?


Are there any works out there related to theorizing on the relationships between intances of flow?

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When I did a Google search for "anthropology" and "diffusionism," Google turned up 3,260,000 results, the first being this Wikipedia article. Then I looked up Homer Barnett, an early 20th century American anthropologist whose name I associate with studies of cultural transmission and innovation. More recently there is the work of Arjun Appadurai.

Look outside of anthropology, and there is getting to be a lot of stuff. Flows of innovation, information, infections, etc., are the meat and potatoes of social network analysis and attempts to apply it to management, marketing, and epidemiology in a wide variety of fields. A good place to begin might be David Easley and Jon Kleinberg's Networks, Crowds, and Markets: Reasoning about a Highly Connected World, which is currently available online as a free pre-publication download.

Hope this helps.
Wow. Thanks! That book seems like a wealth of information.

I have to admit an ulterior motive of sorts in the question that I'm asking here, as I'm currently working on what I plan to be my first article. It will be on building a relational framework for understanding flow.

Through the course of my secondary lit searching, I've uncovered a lot of work on the concept of flow especially in the fields of environmental studies and industry studies. It seems that there's a great implication for political ecology in these works that I might explore in the future.

Here are some other sources that are non-anthro, but that mention the concept of flow:

Beaumais, Olivier and Dimitri Laroutis. 2007. "In search of natural resource-based economies: the case of the Seine estuary (Farnce). Pp. 3-11 in Hydrobiologia.

Bringezu, Stefan, Helmut Schutz and Stephan Moll. "Rational for and Interpretation of Economy-Wide Materials Flow Analysis and Derived Indicators." Pp. 43-64 in Journal of Industrial Ecology. Vol 7 (2).

Hendriks, Carolyn, Richard Obernosterer, Daniel Muller, Susanne Kytzia, Peter Baccini and Paul H. Brunner. 2000. "Material Flow Analysis: a tool to support environmental policy decision making. Case-studies on the city of Vienna and the Swiss lowlands." Pp. 311-328 in Local Environment. Vol 5 (3). Carfax Publishing.

I haven't had the chance to read them yet, and I find myself ambivalent about what "environmental policy decision making" actually means. However, I'm currently working in an institutional setting, and I recognize that understanding from the inside will help to refine criticism; so I'll reserve judgment.

One note of interest, though: the last article has an interesting diagram on what is termed the "anthroposphere." I'll probably return to that concept later.
It seems to me that this fits perfectly within Harvey's theory of uneven geographical development, although I think he correctly does not use the "flow" metaphor. Since you're thinking about flow, have you taken a look at James Ferguson's Global Shadows? For me, along with Harvey's more recent work, it points to some serious flaws in the use of this particular metaphor.
You might also find it interesting to take a look at Grant McCracken's Flock and Flow. It's a bit light weight but provocative, basically an extension of Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point. Grant argues that successful products/memes/social movements have to survive not just one but multiple tipping points, at each of which they are modified to meet the demands of a new and larger market. Thus, for example, an Indie Music band starts out as one of a host of wannabe's on the chaotic edge of the avant garde. But to make it to Beatles or Rolling Stones status, it will have to adjust its sound to acquire new fans. By the third or fourth iteration, the original fans may no longer be fans, now seeing the group as having sold out. They won't be wrong, but their opinions will no longer count to those managing the band's development.

P.S. As I write this remark, I wonder if it isn't a pretty good model of what's happened to anthropology's favorite meme "culture."

Thank you for the advice. I'm interested to hear that there's criticism of the concept, and maybe I should go to those criticisms before I commence further. I have read some Harvey, but not the latest stuff (I'm presuming).

I'm familiar with the concept of uneven geographies, and I see it here as well. I'm interested, among other things, in the relationship between uneven geographies and flow, which I was somewhat anticipating in my original question.

I'll get a hold of Global Shadows.


Thanks for that particular point about how objects of flow will tend to change over the course of their movement. It reminds me of Josiah Heyman's assertion that commodities step up or down in value when they cross borders.

Heyman, Josiah McC. 2004. "Ports of Entry as Nodes in the World System." Pp. 303-327 in Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power. Vol 11. Routledge.
The mention of "uneven geographies" reminded me that I have a still unread copy of Harm De Blij (2009) The Power of Place: Geography, Destiny, and Globalization's Rough Landscape. That, too, might be worth a look.

And the Heyman assertion that commodities step up or down in value when the cross borders reminds me of the rumor game we played as kids. One kid whispers something to a second, who whispers it to a third....then, the last kid repeats what she has heard out loud and everyone gets a laugh out of how different it is from the original.
I think it would be nice to read thу work "Civilization and Capitalism, 15th–18th Centuries" by Fernand Braudel. for example, he explained the influence of geography upon social and cultural processes.
The name Braudel sounds really familiar. I'll have to look it up. Thank you.

Roman said:
I think it would be nice to read thу work "Civilization and Capitalism, 15th–18th Centuries" by Fernand Braudel. for example, he explained the influence of geography upon social and cultural processes.



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