Lateral diffusion is the process whereby information can be spread from one node in a social network to another, often in a selective way, and can rapidly traverse an entire population, but preferentially to those nodes likely to be interested, or needing to know. In this way it has been shown that typically no more than 6 intermediaries are likely to link the most extreme chain of lateral diffusion—see six degrees of separation even worldwide. Messages or information are also subject to query and modification en route. This is in contrast to central media where one message or perspective is broadcast to a large number of people simultaneously. Thus lateral diffusion can be said to occur in lateral media. This is similar to how rumours, gossip and jokes rapidly spread. But note that each sender can be selective: a sender wouldn't necessarily tell a superior a joke he might not approve of. Senders also tend to pass on information to those who they know from personal experience would be interested or need to know.

IRG solution

File:First stage of lateral diffusion.jpg

This notion was one of the key ideas in "Communication and Integration within the Agriculture, Water, Waste and Energy Industries",[1] 1980 and The IRG Solution - hierarchical incompetence and how to overcome it, in 1984, which advocated the usage of personal computers linked by the telephone network, to allow the lateral diffusion of messages and information in a selective way to those who would be interested - this is of course what occurs now in the Internet, by a Social network service. In "The IRG Solution" it was envisaged that each person would be at the centre of an IRG - Information Routing Group, of relatively well known and trusted persons. He might exchange information with a contact in his first group.

See also

Notes and references

  1. Communication and Integration within the Agriculture, Water, Waste and Energy Industries by D.C. Andrews ERG 033 Research Paper from the Energy Research Group, The Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes, MK7 6AA, England. September 1980


  • The IRG Solution - Hierarchical Incompetence and how to overcome it. David Andrews. Souvenir Press, London, 1984. Pages 200 - 220. ISBN 0-285-62662-0. Detailed description of the proposal.
  • Mogens Niss Professor of Mathematics and Mathematics Education IMFUFA, Roskilde University, Denmark "Om folkeskolelaereruddanelsen i det vigtige fag matematik" in Peter Bollerslev (ed.): "Den ny matematik i Danmark - en essaysamling", Copenhagen, Gyldendal, 1979, pp107–122. The relevance paradox is defined on p. 111.
  • Niss, M. (1994) Mathematics in Society. In Biehler, R., Scholz, R. W., Straesser, R., Winkelmann, B. Eds. (1994) The Didactics of Mathematics as a Scientific Discipline. Dordrecht: Kluwer, 367-378. Relevance paradox
  • Energy Research Group, Open University. Communication Within the Agriculture, Water, Waste and Energy Industries. Discussed examples of how the industries mentioned can be integrated to a greater or lesser degree, leading to lower pollution and energy use. Discussed the need for IRGs and how they might be organized. Emphasizes problem is lack of co-ordination and lateral communication between organisations. Describes interlock research in detail, the relevance paradox and the Bilharzia/schistosomiasis issue, central media, lateral diffusion, tacit knowledge, and Lateral Access Networks, later renamed Information Routing Groups, development of private languages as a barrier to inter communication, also describes how computers can be used to speed up lateral communication, and lateral referral . DC Andrews. ERG 033. Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes, England 1980.
  • "The Importance of Knowing the Right People" (Article based on ERG 033 on Lateral Access Networks - the forerunner of Information Routing Groups). Printed in the Guardian Newspaper, London (The National Newspaper) March 20, 1980. Discussed Bilharzia / schistosomiasis relevance paradox.
  • Energy Research Group, Open University . Information Routing Groups. DC Andrews. ERG 037. Generalisation of ERG 033, advocated development of software and automatic phone answering modem to link up private PCs effectively creating an Internet. Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes, England 1980. David Andrews
  • Library Association Record to a seminar run jointly by IEE and the LA on 'Biblionic man', held at the IEE on 26 November 1980. Covered same ground as ERG 033 and ERG 037.
  • Andrews, D. (1986) Information routeing groups – Towards the global superbrain: or how to find out what you need to know rather than what you think you need to know, Journal of Information Technology, 1, 1, Feb, 22-35. details of lateral referral, diffusion.
  • Yewlett, J . L . Town Planning, Wales, Institute. of Science & Technology . "Networks : Developments in theory & practice". The paper reviews developments in the U .S .A. & U .K . in recent years, progressing beyond network analysis to explore the structure & use of networks. The paper seeks to address questions of how to construct multi-actor policy structures, & build networks for particular purposes. Contributory concepts explored included the 'Reticulist', the 'Leader/Co- ordinator', the 'Segmented Polycephalous Network' & the 'Information Routing Group' in CONNECTIONS Sunbelt Social Network Conference World Congress of Sociology American Sociological Association VOLUME IX NUMBERS 2-3 Winter, 1986
  • (see Charnock, Anne (1980) Taking Bilharziasis out of the irrigation equation. New Civil Engineer, 7 August) Bilharzia caused by poor civil engineering design.

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