Structural Holes, Innovation and the Distribution of Ideas
Robin Cowan, UNU-MERIT
We model knowledge diffusion in a population of agents situated on a network, interacting only over direct ties. Some agents are by nature traders, others are by nature "givers": traders demand a quid pro quo for information transfer; givers do not. We are interested in efficiency of diffusion and explore the interplay between the structure of the population (proportion of traders), the network structure (clustering, path length and degree distribution), and the scarcity of knowledge. We find that at the global level, trading (as opposed to giving) reduces efficiency. At the individual level, highly connected agents do well when knowledge is scarce, agents in clustered neighbourhoods do well when it is abundant. The latter finding is connected to the debate on structural holes and social capital.
Date: 11 January 2007