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Introductory note on Emergent Unconscious Knowledge Networks (Asygnodic Networks)

Note introductive sur les réseaux de Savoir Inconscient Emergent (« Asygnosis Networks »)
Edward M. Roche, Michael J. Blaine et Henry Bakis
p. 413-418


Cette note présente l’article qui suit, article qui explore le concept « Réseaux de Savoir Inconscient Emergent » créé par Ed. Roche et M. Blaine. Ce concept explique un grand nombre de phénomènes divers impliquant des organisations, des groupes et la prise de décision. Il présente sa genèse et sa définition, mettant l’accent sur les principales différences avec les théories traditionnelles de la prise de décision, et les réseaux sociaux émergents.

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Texte intégral

  • 1 Page written by Henry Bakis.

1When the original version of this text came to me for possible publication in Netcom, my feelings were mixed1.

2This paper aimed to create a dialogue between disparate academic disciplines around the topics of decision making, human communication networks, and information exchange in the context of the emergence of modern telecommunications and massive online global communities. As the authors wrote, “The unprecedented scope and scale of these networks challenges contemporary theories in management and decision making, political organization and governance of institutions, sociology, and communications”. The Authors argue that these theories are outdated because they are based on an unrealistic assumption about human rationality and how decisions actually are made.

3The text itself seemed impeccable but my initial impression was that its publication by a scientific journal presented a major challenge because it integrates concepts, literature and scientific perspectives from a surprising number of disciplines. It was difficult to find referees familiar with the many knowledge domains touched upon in the article.

4The safest way to avoid any error was obvious: we could cut away any text where it seemed impossible to verify empirical relevance. But the text was so tightly integrated this was impossible. The members of our Scientific Committee did not choose this easy way out and instead have published this submission after a number of drafting changes. In particular, the authors agreed to revise their text mainly by reducing the length and shortening the vast list of works referenced.

5Now the debate begins. The pages of Netcom welcome reactions and further discussion of these new concepts.

6Before moving to the text itself, the following paragraphs are designed to help readers become familiar with their ideas and approaches.

Approaches to asygnotic networks

Genesis and definition

  • 2 Pages written by Edward Roche & Michael Blaine.

7By the first decade of the 21st century, computer-based Social Media and global telecommunication systems made it possible to link 10s and even 100s of millions of individuals in real-time to share ideas, reactions and images without regard to geographical location. The potential impact of such networks is profound and will only increase in the future as barriers to communication and information flow decline, and individuals become more synchronized and enabled by new technologies2.

8The term “Asygnosis” first appeared in a widely circulated - but as yet unpublished – manuscript by Roche and Blaine entitled Asygnosis: Towards A New Theory of Decision Making. The concept was created by the authors to explain a new type of network phenomenon made possible by the rapid proliferation of social media platforms and global telecommunications. Roche and Blaine observed that these networks operate in a way that resembles neuro-plasticity found in the the brain.

9Asygnodic Networks (AN) differ from their traditional counterparts. For example, traditional networks - even “informal” ones - are created for some basic purpose and their membership is often restricted based on an individual’s ability to contribute skills or knowledge to a shared objective. Asygnodic Networks, on the other hand, are self-generating and function more like living organisms as they use telecommunication (and other) systems to spread memes throughout the global population. ANs may evolve in unpredictable ways. Their purpose and membership are not fixed but instead continuously change based on their own inherent purpose, structure and logic.

10Not unlike neuron configurations, these “Asygnodic (+ diktyo - grid or network) Networks” are characterized by continuous formation, strengthening, elaboration, weakening, and sometimes disappearance based on use and need. A similar process takes place in the brain during the learning process. In addition, the content (signal) itself is transformed as it transits the network. As memes flows through an AN they tend to evolve or “mutate” much like a virus as individuals react and respond to this stimulus.

Asygnosis and decision-making

11Based on an extensive review of existing theory, the authors have concluded that most formal models of decision-making are unrealistic because they are based on out-dated assumptions about rationality and cognition. New research in neuroscience on the structure and function of the human brain may be used to develop a more accurate model of these processes. When the fundamentals of current decision-making theory were formulated, the brain was viewed as a “comparison engine” which broke complex problems into a series of hierarchical binary decisions. At each point in the decision chain, various options were analyzed and compared, and the “best” option was selected, with the ultimate decision (or strategy) being the final choice at the end of this process. Decision-making is supposedly logical, sequential, rational, orderly, and predictable. Recent research, however, suggests that this is not how the brain actually operates. Decisions are not the end product of a structured, sequential process, but instead result from the (inter-) action of large numbers of neurons firing simultaneously. Consequently, there is no central locus of decision-making in the brain (or likely the organization), but instead a diffused panoply of activities that occurs in multiple location at the same time. Further, these activities have no fixed structure, but result from the continuous formation and dissolution of complex neural networks. These findings helped define the basic features of Asygnosis.

12The authors reached several conclusions about the implications of Asygnosis for decision-making, strategy and organizations. Most formal organizational structures and processes are based on these older and outdated pseudo-rationalist concepts of decision-making. They work against the spontaneous action of Asygnosis since they are designed to eliminate and control the types of interaction which support these networks. There is an “Illusion of Control” and “Rationality”. To some extent the appearance of control in organizations is an artifact of rationality; and although “control” may be possible for very short periods in regard to very narrow, structured activities, in reality outcomes are the result of an enormous number of simultaneous “events”, and as these “nano-” decisions” and actions mass together over time the ability to control or predict outcomes decreases accordingly. The authors suggest that our faith in rationality, causality and control should be replaced with a new faith in the inherent logic of complex self-organizing systems.

Asygnosis and emergent social networks

13Although Asygnosis was originally developed to explain Decision-making and Organizational processes, it is also useful for analyzing Social phenomena such as the formation, dissolution and effect of Social Networks that emerge around a specific topic or activity. Recent examples of these types of ANs include the so-called “Arab Spring”, Occupy Wall Street, Wikipedia, and even terrorist activities. These phenomenon link together a large number of people with diverse skills and knowledge from widely divergent locations and backgrounds into a fluid, interactive community interested in the same idea or activity. They emerge and grow without traditional means of support. They are more useful in creating and sharing impressions and knowledge than developing strategies and coordinating action.

14The basic characteristics of Asygnodic Networks make them particularly well-suited for social and political purposes since these activities tend to be highly “charged” and therefore encourage individuals to express and share deeply personal and emotional reactions and impressions. The anonymous, real-time nature of ANs only enhances their appeal.

15Many Social and Political events, ideas and images are capable of producing extreme reactions in individuals and this often causes the network to spread and evolve beyond all reasonable expectations as individuals react and interact. ANs are non-restrictive to both individuals and ideas. They provide a vehicle for the disenfranchised to express their thoughts, feelings, hopes and fears among themselves. When these groups become the vast majority of a specific community, nation or the world, ANs become an overwhelming force for change. When that “force” is pitted against an inflexible National or International Institutional Structure, the implications are both clear and frightening. Imagine the progress of the Revolutions in Eastern Europe during the 1980s if anything like Asygnodic Networks had been in widespread use when the Berlin Wall fell. And although Occupy Wall Street may have failed in its original objectives, nearly a decade after the fact it is hard to find anyone who openly supports Wall Street or the economic and political institutions which shelter it. Thus, ANs can provide a powerful counter-weight to an ossified Establishment that has become increasingly out of step with the hopes and needs of the majority of its citizens. Unfortunately, History suggests that the meeting of these two forces is rarely peaceful.

Areas of future research

16The study of Asygnosis and Asygnodic Networks is a multi-disciplinary pursuit which crosses a number of academic boundaries. The authors suggest that much research needs to focus on the causes and mechanism that enable ANs to grow and evolve. Although traditional Network Theory may be useful in this regard, the dynamic nature of ANs makes them more like living biological systems or organisms than traditional communication or knowledge networks. Thus, the application of various Biological and Evolutionary principles to the “life-cycle” of ANs could also be of great value. We know that ANs change and evolve, but we do not understand exactly how this happens, or why.

17Networks also change the persons participating in them. More work should examine the application of neuroscience models to understand how these new electronic communication and computer technologies change human cognition, brain chemistry and behavior. It is already well established that various computer-based activities - from computer games to texting - can have a profound effect on the individual and his/her behavior; but more study is required to understand exactly why and how this occurs. Additionally, it would be useful to link different types of “memes” with specific reactions, responses and behaviors, in both individuals and groups. We might try to identify the various “triggers” that lead certain individuals to move from mere participation in an AN to sometimes startling actions outside these communities.

18Finally, once the dynamics of network change are understood, and their effects on human cognition, it should be possible to explore wider social phenomena and engage a new generation of geographical mapping concepts to this new terra incognita.

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1 Page written by Henry Bakis.

2 Pages written by Edward Roche & Michael Blaine.

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Pour citer cet article

Référence papier

Edward M. Roche, Michael J. Blaine et Henry Bakis, « Introductory note on Emergent Unconscious Knowledge Networks (Asygnodic Networks) », Netcom, 29-3/4 | 2015, 413-418.

Référence électronique

Edward M. Roche, Michael J. Blaine et Henry Bakis, « Introductory note on Emergent Unconscious Knowledge Networks (Asygnodic Networks) », Netcom [En ligne], 29-3/4 | 2015, mis en ligne le 23 mai 2016, consulté le 25 mars 2017. URL : ; DOI : 10.4000/netcom.2166

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Edward M. Roche

Columbia Institute for Tele-Information, Columbia Business School, New York, USA; Email:

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Michael J. Blaine


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Henry Bakis

Professeur émérite de Géographie et Aménagement à l’Université de Montpellier III.

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Licence Creative Commons
Netcom – Réseaux, communication et territoires est mis à disposition selon les termes de la licence Creative Commons Attribution - Pas d'Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de Modification 4.0 International.

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