Networks and Power

I used the holidays effectively and completed my MBA thesis *) for Aalto University School of Science and Technology (previously Helsinki University of Technology). The title of the thesis is “The Network Theory of Power explained in relation to Network Brand, perspective of a software developer community”. The software developer community in question is Mobile Brain Bank.

 

 

I have been interested in networks already before founding the Mobile Brain Bank. During the Nokia years I started many initiatives, always needing to prove my case first. Proving the case usually meant getting enough mass behind the idea, hence networking. Open innovation, open source software development, standardization, licensing, platform stickiness, research promotion, these are all elements of networking, and using the power of the network for achieving a goal.

But who sets the goals? Who pulls the strings?

I started by looking into the Network Theory of Power by Manuel Castells, and the Theory of Network Gatekeeping by Karine Barzilai-Nahon. I made notes and studied how these theories relate to Mobile Brain Bank. Pretty soon I realized that as a network, Mobile Brain Bank has a unique character, it is a network held together by commercial opportunities for developers. It is not a social network, nor is it an ideology. From this, I concluded that the study would be incomplete unless I recognize the business aspect, and soon found a perfect anti-thesis: the theory of Network Brand by Teemu Moilanen.

 

 

These two theories (Castells and Moilanen) provided the theoretical framework, and Mobile Brain Bank the case. I concluded the paper with eight points:

This thesis introduced several novel ideas and cross-­‐overs to the topic of networks, power, brands, and software developer community.

  • First, two new concepts, a supergatekeeper, and a superhub.
  • Second, the conclusion that an actor imposing rules to the network (either gatekeeper or supergatekeeper) is exercising Networking Power. This power position grows stronger as the network grows.
  • Third, we created a new synthesis where the size of the network, and the position of the one imposing the rules are in interrelation with the network’s brand. Furthermore, fourth, when an actor has established this position – one of a gatekeeper or supergatekeeper controlling the growth and brand of the network – the actor can choose to operate as a programmer, or a switcher.
  • Fifth, the concept of Network Power introduces the importance of standards as ‘protocols of communication’. Protocols of communication are branding elements.
  • Sixth, a software developer network is theoretically an ideal candidate for Network Brand, and has been tested in practice by the Mobile Brain Bank.
  • Seventh, a small number of active hubs can define the brand of a network.
  • Eight, it would be safe to conclude that a networked way of organizing business services has a greater stimulus on economies and societies than what is their direct, current, economical or fiscal impact.

The paper received a good grade, but my professor pointed out that I should have included an insight to Mark Granovetter’s study “the strength of weak ties”, a pioneering paper on nature of social networks. This could be if I take on further studies on the topic. As concluded in the paper:

 

 

Changes in democratic societies take place only when crowds shift. An interesting further study would examine the topologies and sizes of various economic networks, and how they impact societies. Finland could prove an ideal testbed for such research, with its small size, clearly identified political actors, employer and employee organizations, and the disruptions from joining the European Union, the success of Nokia, and now emergence of a new entrepreneurial class, the “startup culture”.

 

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