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UH professor's communication theory to be featured on the CBS hit show 'Numb3rs' on Nov. 18

University of Hawaiʻi
Devan Rosen, (808) 956-3323
Speech Department
Arlene Abiang, (808) 956-5637
External Affairs & University Relations
Posted: Nov 17, 2005

HONOLULU — Devan Rosen, assistant speech professor at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, has been consulted by the CBS hit show ʻNumb3rs‘ regarding his emerging theory of group dynamics called "Flock Theory." The television series, based on an FBI agent who recruits his mathematical genius brother to help the government solve challenging crimes, will use Rosen‘s theory in this week‘s episode titled "In Plain Sight" airing Friday, Nov. 18, from 9 to 10 p.m. Hawaiʻi time.

The episode will feature Charlie (David Krumholtz) and his FBI brother Don (Rob Morrow) taking down an organized crime network that produces methamphetamines. Rosen‘s core concepts on Flock Theory were transferred into Charlie‘s dialogue.

The show first learned of Rosen‘s theory when Nick Falacci, one of the show‘s creators/executive producers, was searching the Internet for self-organizing complex networks and found a brief mention about Flock Theory. Falacci wanted to show a smooth visual metaphor, juxtaposing the organization of crime with the self-organization of birds. The show‘s researcher Andy Black was tasked to dig up information on the theory and found that Rosen was the only professor who was consistently paired with the theory.

According to Rosen, the Flock Theory suggests that groups self organized from the bottom up, rather than the traditional top-down structure, tend to be more self-directed, creative and imaginative, therefore more capable of weathering anticipated and unforeseen changes.

In researching his theory, Rosen looked for the most effective structure for task groups and other organizations. The idea came from an epiphany of two sense sources — a vision of flocks of birds flying together and improvisational musicians.

"Watch a flock of birds flying, and you notice that they fly as individuals and at the same time as one," said Rosen. "There is no lead bird yet there is organization, communication, cooperation and shared direction. Why? What are the dynamics that causes this efficient group behavior to happen?"

"You see it also when musicians jam or improvise. No one is conducting them, yet they respond and interact with each other and create these wonderful and often very complex compositions," said Rosen. "How? That is the basis of Flock Theory."

"The process is at once seemingly random and chaotic and at the same time beautifully coordinated and extremely efficient," Rosen said. "Think what we could do if task groups, companies or nations could operate like that? It‘s both amazing and hopeful."

Because the subject of self-organizing networks could potentially provide for many story concepts, the show plans to consult Rosen again on a future episode later this season.

For more information about Numb3rs, visit the CBS Web site at

Media note: To obtain digital photos of ʻCharlie‘ played by David Krumholtz, e-mail

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