In "A View from the Center," his 1977 CCCC keynote address, here’s what
Richard Lloyd-Jones said about Mrs. Peterson, "the emblem" of those in his
Some will share a memory with me–the recollection of picking up the phone,
cranking one long ring, and getting "central." You could ring various
combinations of shorts and longs and get specific subscribers directly, but if
you really wanted to know what was going on in the village you rang
The folks in bigger towns, which had numbers, had to call central in order
to be hooked up to anybody else on the system, but their central didn’t know
much except numbers, and out central had a name–Mrs. Peterson–and she knew
all sorts of things. Somehow, in the village, she knew who was at the
bank, who had gone down to the ice house, who hadn’t been feeling well.
I don’t know that she listened in on all the conversations, but we supposed
so. She just made herself central in the life of the community. In our more
urban and perhaps urbane way, we would think of her as a communication nexus,
but we’d to better to remember Mrs. Peterson as Central. (49)
Compositionist as pastoral telephone operator. A communication nexus.
This isn’t the only metaphor Lloyd-Jones invokes in the talk, but it is the
piece that resonates most with network studies. Whatever her methods
(eavesdropping? Mrs. Peterson!), she is knowing because of a high degree of
centrality, her niche in a reasonably sized network. When network
become too large, the connector’s knowledge diminishes. Thresholds: Central
knows only numbers in densely populated areas.
Nothing to add beyond that. Just reading for exams,
and thinking Lloyd-Jones was talking about network centrality in his address out
in Kansas City some years ago.