From neurons to social relationships, tweets to trade agreements, literary structures to food webs, the idea of “connections” has become central to how we understand our world. We link to one another, to the virtual world, and to various environments through networks that exist at all levels of human activity. “Six degrees of separation,” “networking” and “social capital” have become part of our language and our daily lives. By mapping the connections among multiple types and levels of “actors”, we have begun to understand the neural and protein networks that sustain life, the social bonds that support or dismantle solidarity in communities, and the political ties on which governments rise and fall. Networks are more than neutral, random or sterile connecting structures. They can facilitate or deny access to a wide array of resources, and provide real intervention points for social, institutional and global change.
Themester 2013 focuses squarely on the role of connectedness as a force in society and in our lives as unique individuals, partners, citizens and members of a global community. Whether particles, people or policies, human experience is embedded in dynamic streams of networks that shape our very existence.