dawn of the organised networks?

From the introduction to what Geert Lovink et al call ‘new network theory’, presented as part of the first call for papers for a conference next year under the same name. This passage, under the heading ‘Dawn of the Organised Networks’, stood out for me among many other interesting and provocative ideas:

Community is an idealistic construct and suggests bonding and harmony, which often is simply not there. The same could be said of the post-9/11 call for ‘trust’. Networks thrive on diversity and conflict (the notworking), not on unity, and this is what community theorists were unable to reflect upon. For them disagreement equals a disruption of the ‘constructive’ flow of dialogue. It takes an effort to reflect on distrust as a productive principle. Indifference between networks is a main reason not to get organised, so this aspect has to be taken seriously. Interaction and involvement are idealistic constructs.

Passivity rules. Browsing, watching, reading, waiting, thinking, deleting, chatting, skipping and surfing are the default condition of online life. Total involvement implies madness to the highest degree. What characterizes networks is a shared sense of a potentiality that does not have to be realized.

Millions of replies from all to all would cause every network, no matter what architecture, to implode. Within every network there is a long time of interpassivity, interrupted by outbursts of interactivity. Networks foster, and reproduce, loose relationships – and it’s better to face this fact straight into the eye. They are hedonistic machines of promiscuous contacts. Networked multitudes create temporary and voluntary forms of collaboration that transcend, but not necessary disrupt the Age of Disengagement. The concept of organised networks is useful to enlist for strategic purposes.

Interesting to put this in dialogue with the dominant idealisation of ‘naturally’ determined chaos, no?

3 thoughts to “dawn of the organised networks?”

  1. Well, the TCS folks have been all over complexity since the late 90s but especially in the past couple of years, and this seems to me to be another manifestation of this trend. (I suspect that Luhmann and Varela and autopoeisis will come up again too, especially since it all syncs so nicely with network protocols.) I do though appreciate the focus on network and political (?) potentialities… but I’m wary of social and cultural theory further fetishising scientific methodologies, along with universalist and singular realities. Nonetheless, I’m all for reconceptualising “community” – I just wouldn’t choose to go about it this way 😉

  2. hi barry!

    anne, i thought you might pop up 😉

    I think a lot of people other than the TCS folks have been ‘all over complexity’ for a while now (in fact, I think the symbolic interactionists and, er, anthropologists, had a really, really good start), and I recognize this kind of manifesto for what it is; it has a certain voice that I recognise very well 😉 Grappling with complexity has never meant throwing up your hands though, right?

    I appreciate your comment about fetishising scientific methodologies – there’s a battle between physics and biology going on, which is what my last sentence gestured at. And in the environment (sic) I work in and that my work circulates in, this stuff just doesn’t even rate a mention. More than anything, I think it’s brave to talk about ‘organisation’ at all in those contexts. I posted the quote as a bookmark without thinking it all the way through but also, there’s problems around the imperative to participate that resonate somehow.

Comments are closed.