Dawn of the Organised Networks

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Essay: Dawn of the Organised Networks. By Geert Lovink and Ned Rossiter. Fibreculture Journal, Issue 5.

URL = http://journal.fibreculture.org/issue5/lovink_rossiter.html


"At first glance the concept of "organised networks" appears oxymoronic. In technical terms, all networks are organised. There are founders, administrators, moderators and active members who all take up roles. Think also back to the early work on cybernetics and the "second order" cybernetics of Bateson and others. Networks consist of mobile relations whose arrangement at any particular time is shaped by the "constitutive outside" of feedback or noise. The order of networks is made up of a continuum of relations governed by interests, passions, affects and pragmatic necessities of different actors. The network of relations is never static, but this is not to be mistaken for some kind of perpetual fluidity. Ephemerality is not a condition to celebrate for those wishing to function as political agents.

Why should networks get organised? Isn't their chaotic, disorganised nature a good thing that needs to be preserved? Why should the informal atmosphere of a network be disturbed? Don't worry. Organised networks do not yet exist. The concept presented here is to be read as a proposal, a draft, in the process of becoming that needs active steering through disagreement and collective elaboration. What it doesn't require is instant deconstruction. Everyone can do that. Needless to say, organised networks have existed for centuries. Just think of the Jesuits. The history of organised networks can and will be written, but that doesn't advance our inquiry for now. The networks we are talking about here are specific in that they are situated within digital media. They can be characterised by their advanced irrelevance and invisibility for old media and p-in-p (people in power). General network theory might be useful for enlightenment purposes, but it won't answer the issues that new media based social networks face. Does it satisfy you to know that molecules and DNA patterns also network?

There are no networks outside of society. Like all human-techno entities, they are infected by power. Networks are ideal Foucault machines. They undermine power as they produce it. Their diagram of power may operate on a range of scales, traversing intra-local networks and overlapping with trans-national insurgencies. No matter how harmless they seem, networks ignite differences. Foucault's dictum: power produces. Translate this over to organised networks and you get the force of invention. Indeed, translation is the condition of invention. Mediology, as defined by Régis Debray (1996), is the practice of invention within the social-technical system of networks. As a collaborative method of immanent critique, mediology assembles a multitude of components upon a network of relations as they coalesce around situated problems and unleashed passions. In this sense, the network constantly escapes attempts of command and control. Such is the entropic variability of networks.

The opposite of organised networks is not chaos. Organised networks routinely intervene into the radical temporality of today's mediasphere. Short-termism is the prevailing condition that inflicts governments, corporations, and everyday life. Psycho-pharmacology is the bio-technical management of this condition (Bifo, 2005). Organised networks offer another possibility - the possibility of creativity, invention and purpose that is not determined in the first instance by the creaking, frequently bewildered grasps at maintaining control, as witnessed across a range of institutions that emerged during the era of the modern state and persist to this day within the complex of the corporate-state, which continues to maintain a monopoly on legitimate violence.

Network users do not see their circle of peers as a sect. Users are not political party members. Quite the opposite. Ties are loose, up to the point of breaking up. Thus the ontology of the user, in so many ways, mirrors the logic of capital. Indeed, the "user" is the identity par excellence of capital that seeks to extract itself from rigid systems of regulation and control. Increasingly the user has become a term that corresponds with the auto-configuration of self-invention. Some would say the user is just a consumer: silent and satisfied, until hell breaks lose. The user is the identity of control by other means. In this respect, the user is the empty vessel awaiting the spectral allure of digital commodity cultures and their promise of "mobility" and "openness". Let us harbour no fantasies: sociality is intimately bound within the dynamic array of technics exerted by the force of capital. Networks are everywhere. The challenge for the foreseeable future is to create new openings, new possibilities, new temporalities and new spaces within which life may assert its insistence for an ethico-aesthetic existence.

Organised networks should be read as a proposal aimed to replace the problematic term virtual community. Organised networks also supersede the level of individual blogging, whose logic of networks does not correspond with the concept we develop here. It is with some urgency that internal power relations within networks are placed on the agenda. Only then can we make a clear break with the invisible workings of electronic networks that defined the consensus era. Organised networks are "clouds" of social relationships in which disengagement is pushed to the limit. Community is an idealistic construct and suggests bonding and harmony, which often is simply not there. The same could be said of the post-911 call for "trust"." (http://journal.fibreculture.org/issue5/lovink_rossiter.html)