Thursday 28 June – Public Event
Location:University of Amsterdam, Oudemanhuispoort 4-6, D0.08.
Registration desk: University of Amsterdam, Oudemanhuispoort 4-6, main hall.
As the now fashionable term ‘Web 2.0’ suggests, the Web has changed. But what has exactly changed, and do the ideas that came with Web 1.0 – distrtibution, connectivity, flows etc. – still provide us with apt ways of thinking about the Web? How intelligent is a web based ‘collective intelligence’?
Doors open, coffee & tea
Welcome by Geert Lovink, Richard Rogers, Jan Simons
10:15 – 12:30
Moderator: Richard Rogers
The Googlization of Everything: How One Company is Shaking Up Culture, Commerce and Community.
What does the world look like through Google? More to the point, what cultural, political, economic, and technological theories might we invoke to make sense of this new information lens — a profitable company that seems benign yet increasingly functions as a public utility? This presentation considers the ways that Google has crafted an egalitarian public image while generating stunning revenue reports. As Google continues to disrupt and challenge established powers such as big media companies (Viacom) and big publishers (Bertelsmann AG), it has chosen to work with the government of the Peoples Republic of China in its efforts to restrict Web censorship. Although the company’s recent moves have generated controversy, Google clearly must protect its brand by being seen as the good guy. And so far it has. The damage Google has done to the world is minimal and centers largely on the slippage of grammatical standards, encouraging more people to use its brand as a verb. Google got big by keeping ads small. It carefully avoided pinching our marketing-saturated nervous systems and offered illusions of objectivity, precision, comprehensiveness, and democracy. After all, we are led to believe, Google search results are determined by peer-review, by us, not by an editorial team of geeks. So far, this method has worked wonderfully. Google is the hero of word-of-mouth marketing lore. And just as clearly, Google must get bigger. It must go new places and send its spiders crawling through un-indexed corners of human knowledge. Google’s mission statement includes the rather optimistic and humanistic phrase, “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” But Google co-founder Sergey Brin once offered a more ominous description of what Google might become: “The perfect search engine would be like the mind of God.”
Everything is everything: network science, neo-liberalism and security.
What links the emerging field of network science with its laws, its representations and its predictive models; the global system of neoliberal governmentality, feeding on cooperation and innovation while also fundamentally organized by mechanisms of competition between unit-enterprises; and new forms of net-centric warfare attempting to prevent unpredictable series of threats which are also themselves network effects? Drawing on Michel Foucault’s lectures on neoliberalism and security, the paper will explore the relationship between the science of networks, mechanisms of security, and neo-liberal governmentality – and what a network culture might have to do with it all.
Drawing from Benedict Anderson’s analysis of the nation as an “imagined community,” this paper argues that we are witnessing the emergence of make imagined groupings–imagined networks–that are both less and more than communities or nations. In doing so, it does not argue for the distributed network as the model for our social interactions, bureaucratic organizations, or even our technologies, but rather asks: what needs to be in place for us to understand ourselves and our technologies as networked? How do social and technological abstractions coincide, diverge and inform each other? and how are these abstractions experienced, sensed, felt?
13:30 – 15:30
Early afternoon session
Moderator: Geert Lovink
Just Networking: Can Network Knowledge Be Better Than “Good Enough” Knowledge?
What is “network knowledge” as it forms at the unstable boundary between “expert” and “amateur” knowledge, or intrinsic and extrinsic knowledge? As exemplified by recent controversies over the inappropriate use of Wikipedia by students seeking only “good enough” knowledge to complete an assignment, the network in the age of Web 2.0 produces knowledge that can collide with academic, governmental, legal, medical, scientific, and other institutional understandings of the basic nature of knowledge. While such “good enough” network knowledge goes beyond local, expert regimes of knowledge to mash up, aggregate, folksonomize, and social-network together different regimes of knowledge, it is often not yet “good” knowledge or (ethically) “just” knowledge able to be fair to the true otherness of really robust knowledge–that is, knowledge that can stand up to, and with, other audiences, other perspectives, other assumptions. Instead, network knowledge is often practiced as an opportunistic grab-what-you-can raid that is true only to the spirit of “flexible” postindustrial global competition. Can the network do a better job of using its structure and technologies to adjudicate, and educate users in, “good” network knowledge?
The Image in the Network
The image of connectivity, distribution and flow has persistently shaped the aesthesia of networks. We are all too familiar with its form – an uneven diagram of recurring links and nodes. Much has been made of the spatial dimensions of this image: the proximity and distance of its nodes, its scalability, and its distributed form. We have entire fields of network visualisation, theory, critique and even new networks growing thanks to the ubiquity of this image of the network. Less has been said about the ways in which this image generates redundancy and how this network junk may link to social and aesthetic issues of waste and sustainability. Still less has been done to produce new images for and in networks that give us a sense of both their fractured and continuous temporalities. I will look at what has yet to be done to transform networks’ image culture. In particular, I will ask: where are the abrupt changes, little deaths and broken lines signalling transformation of the image by the distributed temporalities of networks? Can we take cues from mash-ups of blogs, lists and Google Earth as a coming aesthesia of new network ‘time-images’? How are networked arts coming to terms with temporality in the network?
Rob Stuart: Network adoption amongst groups – elements for success and failure.
Drawing on experiences creating philanthropic, activist and issue advocacy networks, Stuart will describe elements which affect whether networks are adopted widely amongst participants. Why do some networks scale while others never take hold? What impact does human relationships have on network technology? Can new network “principles” provide a foundation for more expansive and successful networks?
15:30 – 15:45
15:45 – 17:45
Late afternoon session
From Networked Publics to Object-Oriented Democracies
The language of politics has used a number of technical metaphors to describe “us” as a body politic. For example, think of “the masses”: could this have been imagined without the language of physics? The latest in this series is the “network.” But, networks too – like older ideas of association and assembly – will be displaced. Political theorist Noortje Marres suggests a possible successor: the “object-oriented public.” Popular objects of Internet exchange illustrate the possibilities and limitations of an object-oriented public: Is there a YouTube democracy? A BitTorrent public? I don’t think so, but let’s have an argument if you do.
The Work of Users in Times of Perfect Templates
“The Work of Users in Times of Perfect Templates” is a continuation of my “Vernacular Web” research, surveillance of todays’ amateurs culture, an attempt to reveal it and describe. I’m looking at new ways of self expression, amateur vs. professional clashes, aesthetics of self representation. How do users show their connection to web history and what are the signs of the future in their work? How does web look when it is a technology of today and not tomorrow, when it is filled by people who are not exited by its existence? And what to do with networks of boredom? It is over repeated that todays web is about people, that it is not pages, but user-centered. User generated content is praised and Rich User Experience is a goal for developers. Sounds like paradise in cyberspace. But in reality never before life of a user was so formalized and disciplined. There is a particular service offered for every format a user may want to share with the world, and a community for every interest, network for any social group. (And mash ups for artists.) So one of my biggest interests in this research is to find traces of subversive web culture of today and to follow them.
“Text” and “network”, reconsidered.
The Latin word “textum” literally means “the web”. With the invention of the World Wide Web in the 1990s however, there was little reflection of a world-wide text, but fruitless debates on “hypertext”, a term that hardly lived up to more than its first four letters. How can, nowadays, text and network be reconsidered as two corresponding symbolic forms? And do computer networks help to define more precisely what actually a text is – technically, but also performatively, as both a purveyor and agent of rumors, memes, obsessions?
Friday June 29
Registration:University of Amsterdam, Oudemanhuispoort 4-6, main hall.
9:30 – 9:45
Location:University of Amsterdam, Oudemanhuispoort 4-6, D0.08.
Geert Lovink, Richard Rogers and Jan Simons
9:45 – 11:30
Location:University of Amsterdam, Oudemanhuispoort 4-6, D0.08.
Moderator: Richard Rogers
MTML meets Web 2.0: Theorizing social processes in multidimensional networks.
Advances in digital technologies (e.g, Web 2.0) invite consideration of organizing within communities as a process that is accomplished by global, flexible, adaptive, and ad hoc networks that can be created, maintained, dissolved, and reconstituted with remarkable alacrity. Increasingly these networks are multidimensional including individuals as well as digital artifacts and concepts. This presentation makes the case for a new generation of theorizing about social processes in these multidimensional networks. It proposes a contextually based multi-theoretical multilevel (MTML) model to investigate the dynamics for creating, maintaining, dissolving, and reconstituting these social and knowledge networks in diverse communities. Using examples from his research on communities involved in disaster response, environmental engineering, public health, economic resilience, and MMOs (Massively Multiplayer Online games), Contractor illustrates the potential of the MTML framework to model how social and knowledge networks are enabled by Web 2.0 technologies.
OSNA — Open Source Network Analysis
Advanced technology and Web-savvy citizenry now make it possible for open-source information gathering to rival, if not surpass, the clandestine intelligence produced by government agencies. Indeed, open-source methods have already proved their worth in counterterrorism. Shortly after Sept. 11, Valdis Krebs, a security expert, re-created the structure and identities of the core Al Qaeda network using publicly available information accessed from the Internet.
By Douglas Raymond and Paula Broadwell
Christian Science Monitor, 08 January, 2007.
In the past only experts did “social network analysis”[SNA], now many smart people are using the software and methods of SNA to solve daily problems and to share learning and sense-making with others. We will look at several popular social network maps that were all created using public information found on the Internet. From international terrorists to local ‘economic terrorists’ we will see how “it takes a network to fight a network.” Taking an SNA approach to a popular web site’s sales data reveals the same political patterns as multi-million dollar national surveys. A top tier business school reveals what they deem important from an SNA of data found on professor’s home pages — MBA applicants take note! Finally, we will see how lobbyists influence legislative outcomes, while maintaining their “distance” and retaining “plausible deniability”.
 John Arquilla and David Ronfeldt of Rand Corporation
Towards Scholarly Marketplaces
Scholarly marketplaces that provide easy access to scientific data, algorithms, publications, and last but not least expertise require major cyberinfrastructure. They require access to large-scale databases such as the Scholarly Database https://sdb.slis.indiana.edu which integrates and provides access to 20 Mio. publications, patents, and funding awards. Plus, there needs to be a means to efficiently access and workflow diverse data sampling, cleaning, analysis, modeling, and visualization algorithms and to run them on scalable computing infrastructures. These needs are addressed by the Cyberinfrastructure Shell (CIShell) specification we developed, see also http://cishell.org. Building on the Open Services Gateway Initiative (OSGi) specification, CIShell supports the design of user-friendly, plug-and-play cyberinfrastructures such as the Network Workbench. Marketplace transaction data will supply the high quality and high coverage data required to draw the first truly comprehensive map of mankind’s scholarly knowledge. The maps can be used to identify major experts, works, and (funding) resources; to understand the internal structure and external linkages of scientific disciplines; and to keep track of emerging research frontiers or bursts of activity, see also http://scimaps.org.
This research was conducted by members of the Information Visualization Laboratory and the Cyberinfrastructure for Network Science Center at Indiana University directed by Dr. Katy Börner as well as collaborators named in the talk. More information is available at http://ella.slis.indiana.edu/~katy/.
11:30 – 13:30
A: Network Theory
Moderator: Geert Lovink
Time and again metaphors have been laid upon on the Internet, with more or less successful results. Metaphors have moved from the sociological to more complex, imaginative categories. Is network itself a metaphor? Networks have grown up, and have been materialized in maps. Most of all, networks have turned from the abstract to a personal, concrete category.
Fibers, links and networks – a parallel between textiles, data communication systems and social interaction
Textiles webs are among the first conceived models of networking. The history of computational systems often highlights the basic 1/0 model of the weaving machine, as well as Joseph-Marie Jacquard 1802’s automatic loom controlled by punched cards. If this genealogy of computational systems is well known, the paper will try to inventory some of the textile’s technical formal aspects and to compare them with similar aspects of data communications systems. By questioning the formal aspects of social theories, the paper will forward discuss issues as free networking and hypermedia.
Marianne van den Boomen:
E-sociability metaphors: From virtual community to social network and beyond
In this paper it is argued that both the concept of ‘community’ and ‘network’ often function as reifying metaphors in Internet research. The virtual community metaphor, imported from the imagery of a pre-modern village, is connected to a delimited virtual space with a distinct group of communicating users. While pre web and early web ‘social software’ indeed did enable virtual settlements in bordered virtual spaces, this no longer holds for distributed web communication. In the context of for example MySpace and the so called blogosphere aggregated web scripts generate permeable interface borders and a proliferation of heterogeneous information and communication transferences which, while undoubtedly social, elude the community metaphor. The network concept seems more appropriate here, but might turn out to be tricky as well. Especially when invoked simultaneously as a model and as ontology, as in social network analysis, the network might become a reified metaphor, in which unruly qualitative phenomena are superseded by a model of homogenized quantitative relations.
The Philosophical Foundation of Network Theory: the Reticulum.
In contemporary terms the concept of a network is derived from one of several sources: computer technology; urban design and planning; anatomy, meaning a network of nerves or blood vessels, or a system of intersecting fibers; or a genealogical schema. This paper specifically attempts to excavate the philosophical presuppositions of the term network in order to make the structure more explicit. In turn, the term can be productive as well as descriptive. I propose the concept of the reticulum in order to account philosophically for the autonomy of individuals within an intersubstantial community. The concept of the reticulum is derived not only from Leibnizian metaphysics, inspired by Deleuze, but also from the Latin word, rete meaning net, or network. As an interwoven combination of parts or elements in the structure, the reticulum provides a model of a unified whole without falling into the “traps” befalling traditional metaphysics: the subject-object divide, ontological difference, and totalizing tendencies. As with the Leibnizian notions of inter-substantiality and inter-connectivity between monadic substances, the interface between individuals in a linked reticulum or relationship is critical. Without fixedness, without immutability, without absolutism, we are faced with a chaotic universe in which all objects in extension are relative to one another, fluctuating, transforming, and eternally mutating. Upon first glance, if all individuals are deflected not only by self-generation, but also by interaction with other individuals, how can we describe the relational dynamic?
Subversive Stitches and Revolutionary Knitting Circles. Between art and activism, DIY and prosumer cultures: Weaving new networks in times of Web 2.0.
Crafts and needlework are usually considered as part of a conservative educatory complex apt to train bodies and minds, “learning by doing”, according to equally conservative power structures. However, it seems that the more recent developments in online technologies changed this perspective in significant ways. Not only D.I.Y. techniques, home style handicrafts and needlework in general experience a renaissance so called Web 2.0 applications, but also the old tradition of “Revolutionary Knitting Circles” is revitalized. And while “craftivism” is promoted as cultural technique for cultural jammers, researchers on the cognitive impact of network aesthetics ask in how far meshwork modelling may work as tool for understanding complex processes. But does this really mean traditional concepts of crafts are set out of function? What are the driving forces directing the new codification – and do they really lead to alternative directions? How do we have to judge the role of electronic media, and the new web “2.0” applications within these developments?
Mirko Tobias Schaefer:
From Network to Foam. Extending the dispositif of user interactions.
The digital culture unfolding on the Internet is widely described with the terms of the ‘community’ and the ‘network’. However both terms tend to fail in describing and theorizing the complex and dynamic interactions of the plurality of human and non-human actors. In this paper I’ll describe the limitations of the metaphors network and community. Following the trail of the Xbox Development Kit (XDK) from its original producer Microsoft to the communities of game console hackers, I’ll demonstrate connections and causal dependencies between user communities and corporate companies and how they are embedded into the socio-technical ecosystem. In consequence this presentation raises the question which agency is causing the fixture of the foam we call digital culture.
B: The Link
Moderator: Richard Rogers
What constitutes linking, and how could we describe its mirror phantom, or rather, its shadow? The link as a reference to another informational object only comes into being as a conscious act. There is no automated process of putting links. And there is no unconscious or subliminal linking either. Linking is tedious work. It’s an effort and should be considered ‘extra work’. There is no routine in linking. It’s a precise job that needs constant control. But the opposite of the conscious link is not the broken but the absent link. What is the lifespan of links and networks?
Bird Flu as a Public Hype: Networks of Communication on the Web.
The paper focuses on the dynamics of communication networks across the (medical) sciences, news media, and blogs during public hype on bird flu, 2005-2006. Theoretically, the study builds upon research on media hypes, dynamics of metaphors in science communication and sociological theory of communication, all of which have discussed the dynamics of cross-domain communications in society. The paper develops new approaches to the analysis of communication networks: Instead of focusing on hyperlink networks, the paper uses textual references to detect changes in the interactions between the domains, on the Web. The main research questions are: How do interactions between scientific and public communication networks change during a hype (inspired by media studies)? What are the possible, quantitative indicators for the changes in the interactions between such networks during hypes (communication sciences)? Does the use of certain tools of communication (e.g. metaphors) increase or decrease during public hypes (social studies of science)? The results show that the bird flu debate gained sudden momentum in all the three domains (science, media, blogs) in October 2005 when scientific results on structural similarities between the bird flu (H5N1) and the Spanish Flu virus were detected, and when the virus infected wild birds and poultry in Europe for the first time. This amplification of the debate seemed to invite more interactions across the domains, yet at the same time the debate fragmented over time.
Mapping, practicing and thinking “the Internet”. Challenging network thought in the context of online health information
Coming from Science and Technology Studies I aim at discussing “the InterNet” as health information source from a broader, more integrated perspective. Combining different empirical data sources, I will concretely elaborate: How chronic diseases are performed and structured on the Web following a hyperlink network approach, how people navigate through the Web and sort the information provided when looking for a particular disease, and in how far this relates to the narratives, images and metaphors of the Internet they articulate. Drawing on Actor-Network Theory I will further argue that the Internet may not be seen as stable technology that might be represented by a single metaphor such as the network, but rather as enacted in different “actor” constellations such as Web sites, links, search engines, surfers and their interests, Internet skills, search creativity and others. Thus, network thought is challenged by the range of multiple enactments of the Internet users produce as they browse the Internet following and making their own structures and rationales.
Clifford Tatum & Kirsten Foot:
From ad-hoc to infrastructure: The lifecycle of hyperlink networks and its implications for social, cultural, and political activity.
Presented by Clifford Tatum.
Based on our examinations of several hyperlink networks over time, we find what appears to be a distinct network lifecycle that results from the coproduction of informational and structural resources on the web. In this paper we propose that the lifecycle of relatively durable hyperlink networks includes three key stages: the ad-hoc beginnings of a network; a critical period of growth and innovation; and then increasing stability as the network becomes infrastructure for the actors that were involved in its initial creation, and others. To the extent that hyperlink networks reflect this lifecycle, there are several implications for the social, cultural, and/or political activities through which the networks are created. Networks that become infrastructure are broadly available resources appropriated in new rounds of activity, and upon which new layers of activities are inscribed. Understanding the lifecycle of a durable hyperlink network helps illuminate how individual and aggregated actions of web production in the context of broader human activities create online structures that may catalyze and/or constrain future activities in particular ways.
Leah A. Lievrouw & Lilly Nguyen:
Linking and the Network Imaginary
Presented by Lilly Nguyen.
In this paper Lievrouw and Nguyen propose a framework of the network imaginary to explore two particular aspects of linking. The network imaginary framework asserts that actors in mediated places must not only be able to recognize links and the relations they signify within their immediate social contexts; they must also be able to visualize the extension or breakdowns of network relations beyond their immediate situations. Subsequently, this paper will explore the nature of links and how they are generated or constituted through explicit and implicit social phenomena. This paper will also explore the generative and degenerative dynamics of linking that continually and reflexively reshape networks and social action. In turn, they will suggest several directions for the study of links and linking within network theory.
C: Locative Media
Moderator: Jan Simons
The Internet was thought to abolish space and time constraints through media. Wireless and mobile media have are-introduced questions of space and place. Cyberspace and the so-called ‘real world’ converge into what Lev Manovich has called ‘augmented reality,’ and in this ‘augmented reality’ it does matter where you are. Locative media allow people to map and share their own cartographies (which implies the dazzling theoretical possibility that there are as many maps as there are map-makers), but they also allow authorities to keep track of everybody and everything. Locative media might give rise to two extreme forms of claustrophobia: will it be possible to ever break out of one’s own maps, andwill it be possible to keep out of sight?
Wirelessness and radical network empiricism.
This paper develops a post-network theory of that seeks to link technological and economic dimensions of networks. It asks: how should we think about information networks in the light of their transnational profusion as wireless networks saturating domestic, urban, rural, transport and institutional zones? The paper analyses 802.11 wireless networks on several levels. The paper will show how micro, meso and macro-scales of wirelessness create inter-linked zones of corporeal, domestic, urban, transnational and mass media connectivity. The concept of wirelessness connects together a set of perceptions, representation, materials, transactions, problems and events in contemporary media and information cultures. The paper develops an idea of ‘radical empiricism’ drawn from the philosopher William James to ask how feelings associated with convoluted social processes, economic formations, scientific knowledges, and technical infrastructures arise. In this respect, the paper inverts conventional understandings of the network as space of flows or information platform.
The Sedimentation of the Passage: Conceptualizing the Locality Today.
Claire Roberge specializes in the cultural critic of transnational studies. She links local participative action (how to communicate) and the functioning of technologies in juxtaposition of spaces and times. Her research pays particular attention to transnational networked materialities engaged in circulation and the repercussions of mediations and mediatisations in the locality. The title of her thesis : L’espace transnational et la localité : le réseautage et la sédimentation du passage renders a strong theorization about what can be read (sediments) as chosen circulated materialities. Observing a transnational network between six different localities (Costa-Rica, Chili, Brazil, Mauritius, Senegal and Canada), she developed a theorization taking the network beyond the traditional setting to include six passages to the transnational space. This presentation will discuss this network; precisely the theorization that came out of my observations. The analysis answers, partly, Sassens’s question : “What are we aiming at ?”.
Stories, Roadmaps and RFID. Exchange; a performance releasing location, memory and identity.
Exchange is a performance that began on May 1, 2006. The goals are 3-fold: to confront the politics of international trade agreements; to question Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) as a surveillance technology; and to resist the imposition of identity determined by geography and data-profiles. Places, people and things become entangled and newly connected in the nomadic performance of trade. The project doesn’t create new maps but rather renders the existing maps simultaneously more meaningful to individuals and less decipherable to systems of power. Personal maps are released from the claustrophobic moorings of the nation state and the suffocating greed of the corporate database.
Toothing and Bluetoothing; network–fantasy-reality.
The highly publicised ‘Toothing hoax’ involved strangers having sexual encounters on the London tube by enabling their Bluetooth devices. Current Bluetooth scans in London reveal that people create innovative and sexually explicit nicknames for their devices. Users project an image of themselves into a social network – not thinking that this will result to an actual real sexual encounter, but they wish it would. The very wishing creates the fantasy, never to be realised. This paper explores how the fantasy of the existence of a localised virtual network as a social plane for sexual interactions, exited peoples’ imagination.
13:30 – 14:30
14:30 – 16:30
A: Networks and Subjectivities
Moderator: Jan Simons
Network theory cannot function without actors, but arguably each network has particular subjects implied or built in, be they old boys, terrorists, credit card transactions. The unexpected might occur. Networks constrain and also script the behaviour of its subjects, but accidents may happen, disruptions may occur. The challenge of the network is to rescript the action or turn the format into a productive constraint for doing subjectivity.
Rethinking Structure and Causation in Network Theory.
In the current state of “network theory”, the term “network” is not only highly ambiguous epistemologically (is it a merely a concept of descriptive analysis or do networks claim ontological quality?) but also conceptually (mathematical graphs, forms of human sociability and cabled connections between computers are obviously not one and the same thing). While this openness affords the possibility of relating previously unrelated disciplines, their specific knowledge and modes of inquiry, and the discovery of stunning similarities in behavior of very different classes of phenomena, there is a quite real danger of slipping into the realm of pure metaphorical analogy where the “parliament of things” (Latour) is loosing its force of intervention and difference is silenced by universal connectivity. My contribution will therefore concentrate on questions of classification and differentiation, i.e. the task of identifying commonality and, more importantly, of features or attributes that are not shared by different types of networks, even when they are directly related. The principles of “structure” and “causation” seem to be of particular interest in this context.
Post-Rekombinant Networks or the Transition from the Cognitariat to the Precariat.
This paper will address the fate of Rekombinance as a critical network strategy, especially as expressed by the six-year history of the Rekombinant Website, co-ordinated by Franco Berardi (Bifo) and Matteo Pasquinelli. Drawing inspiration from biotechnology, Rekombinant aimed to be much more than just a typical radical Website, providing information about radical actions and interpretations of current events. Instead, it was aiming at nothing less than a dynamic rekombinant strategy by means of which political action, philosophical thought, cognitive labour and network technologies could creatively intersect, with the aim of facilitating an autonomous production of subjectivity, contesting the hegemonic alliance between neo-liberal capitalism and cognitive labour that had reached its peak in the 1990’s. Crucial to this enterprise was the concept of the cognitariat, the massive virtual class of operators, service and brain workers who, in a response to such events as the dot-com crash were potentially in a position to question the subordination of knowledge to capital and to create other more autonomous network possibilities, maximising the creativity of the human-machine interface and minimising the necessity of its reduction to capitalist exploitation and control. The principle support for this enterprise was the counter-globalisation movement form Seattle 1999 onwards and its claims that another world is possible, which the animators of Rekombinant saw as having a vital application to the radicalisation of cognitive labour, in a creative, network re-invention of the principles of creative autonomy from the 1970’s.This paper, as well as examining this history of rekombinant strategies, will also pose the question of what, in this precarious context, might come to replace these strategies now that the euphoria associated with the counter-globalisation movement, has given way to a much more sober if not depressing network environment; one thing is clear, namely that these strategies will have to be able to respond actively with the fragilities, passivity and pathologies of the contemporary production of subjectivity that are analysed in Franco Berardi’s most recent writings.
Subjects that matter: Subjectivity in Network Reality
The omnipresent role of global network structures and the crucial cultural status of widespread media communications enact a dynamic relationship between subjectivity and the network. In pragmatic terms a question that arises from that assumption is whether the network is changing if the subjects that constitute the network are changing. Following an actor-network analysis, I argue that networks are likely to change if the persons that constitute it are different, thus subjectivity gets to be a contributor in the formation of the network. On the other hand if subjectivity cannot be thought as entirely autonomous-as was the case for the modernistic subject- the network is also, in an actor-network environment, forming the subjectivity. Thus, rethinking subjectivity in the network involves the loss of barriers between the subjectivity as a separate entity and as an agent of several network embodied structures. This can have a certain impact on rethinking some concepts of the network in media studies- as authorship, representation and hyper-reality. A strong case made from these points is that subjectivity in the network must be thought in a context that defies humanism in its modernistic version, nevertheless without neglecting the impact of subjectivity on the network functions.
Franz Beitzinger, Natascha Zowislo and Jürgen Schulz:
Saying ‘No’: On the rejection of consensus-oriented communication on the Internet.
Presented by Franz Beitzinger.
It is a somewhat naïve and normatively-burdened idea that the purpose of communication is to create consensus. However, it is easily overlooked that is precisely the ‘No’ and the lack of a goal to reach agreement by no means eradicate communication, but in fact increase the communicative options and connectivity among the participants as conflicting interests and alternative points of view, rather than the aspiration for agreement and harmony, constitute a communicative relationship. Firstly, this paper seeks to illustrate theoretically how the ‘No’ on the Internet can lead to a) the maintenance of the communicative system, b) to the establishment of identity for those actors saying ‘No’, and c) to their gaining meaning in the real world away from the Internet. Secondly, with the help of examples from Internet-based political and anti-corporate protest movements the means and strategies that the Internet itself enables individual and group actors to use the ‘No’ to establish and secure their own identity will be examined. Thirdly, this paper analyses how the targets of the protest, the antagonists of the protest movement (corporations or political parties), can successfully deal with dissent-oriented protest on the Internet in order to avoid having their own prominent position exploited for the purposes of the protest group in the aforementioned way.
Ulises Ali Mejias:
Hyperlocality and the tyranny of nodes.
A defining characteristic of networked sociality is the overcoming of physical space. Information and communication technologies (ICT’s) have allowed social groups to shift from densely-knit location-based communities to sparsely-knit networks unbound to any specific physical space. Thus, the network introduced what has been heralded as the ‘death of distance.’ But we have seen recently a return to a concern with the local. Accessible, low-cost, and mobile technologies promise to deliver a form of ‘hyperlocality’ that re-connects us to our immediate surroundings in supposedly more meaningful ways. But what biases does the hyperlocal exhibit? When social relevance is defined in terms of presence within the network, what we have is a shift from physical proximity to informational availability as the defining feature of ‘nearness.’ Thus, the network actualizes a form of epistemological exclusivity that can only ‘see’ nodes. In this presentation, I intend to explore how hyperlocality works to render as near only those elements in our environment that are available through the network, and obscures what lies in the interstices.
B: Networking and Social Life
Moderator: Ramesh Srinivasan
‘Networking’ continues to be encouraged in our professional lives, but no one seems to have thought through how life would be guided if we apply network theory to professional ‘networking’ rather literally. As network scientists’ terms and ideas spread, it is of interest to speculate about one’s social life, governed by the power law, preferential attachment, hubs, self-organization, swarming and cascading effects. To network in a colloquial sense, essentially is to connect oneself with a hub. As the hub receives more connections (or becomes ‘preferentially attached’), the hub may become a superconnector, handling a disproportionately large number of connections relative to those of the other hubs in the overall network. As the network continues to grow through self-organisation, general knowledge of the existence of the superconnector may cause swarming behaviour.
A superconnector, network science reports, has the greatest vulnerabilities, however. If the superconnector cannot handle the traffic, the network breaks down. If there’s breakdown, with or without cascading effects, which determines the extent of the damage, you’re on your own again. One implication is that one should continue to seek fresh hubs (as long as they last), and keep them from becoming overheated superconnectors. Hub-seeking behaviour, along with superconnector-care, come to guide social life.
Acting Out Network: Self-destructive Murmurs in the Blogosphere.
The Internet has become a discursive space where interactants actively discuss not only mainstream topics but socially-marginalized interests such as suicide or self-injury (SI). While some go online to seek for mutual supports from like-minded others, others adapt online venues as another medium to monologically disclose their pent-up struggles. Weblogging (blogging) can be viewed as a unique platform of monological writing in which bloggers chronicle their daily life for public consumption. Focusing on ambivalent characteristics of blogs – monological and dialogical, – I aim to map the friendship network of one suicidal/SI blogger. The finding suggests that through networking process the blogger’s SI habits are tacitly recognized as a productive (albeit temporal) solution both by authors and readers. This shared legitimation of SI behavior indicates that a grass-roots network of “acting out” plays a significant role in construction of discursive identity.
Community (New) Media – Public access in the age of networked social media.
How are alternative media networks being formulated when the main cultural drive actually seems to be towards the Web 2.0 ideals of social media? Is there still any radical potential left in a concept of Community (New) Media? The base for the investigation is research on the state of non-commercial community media in Denmark and the case of the artist-run local TV-station tv-tv. What is the meaning of the station’s slogan “everybody can make TV” in a culture where everybody actually can make TV? Traditionally, alternative media networks have stressed the importance of the non-commercial, but new “free” Internet tools for media publishing re-introduce the commercial in deceptive ways. Old alt media networks are simply lacking the understanding of the criteria behind Internet participation in the Web 2.0 culture. In the presentation I will explore the need for rethinking the role of alternative “public access” media in the paradoxical context of the “massive de-massification” of social media networks.
Re-thinking network theory and analysis concerning social care networks in the Internet age. A case description.
For my PhD research project I am studying structures, influences, limitations and challenges concerning organizations and networks involved in social care for gender dysphoric people. By it’s nature the transgender community is a closed community making extensive use of the possibilities of the internet for knowledge gathering and sharing and self-support. To perform a network study in this environment it needs to be executed ‘from the inside out’, meaning one needs to be part of the community.
A large part of the study is concerned with peoples experiences with social care processes also through internet fora and knowledge sharing websites. Especially the influence of these on the regular health ad social care is a research goal with specific challenges to the researcher. Does this all require new ways of network research and a new network theory?
Kimberly de Vries:
Desire, Dissent and Differentiation: Sustaining Growth in Virtual Networks.
Many if not all virtual communities have been spawned out of the
founders’ desire to find others who share their views, pleasures,
distastes, and obsessions. The early net communities were generally peopled by users who shared a propensity toward play or fantasy, but the population of Internet users has diversified and grown to include many people coming to net communities for many reasons beyond these initial desires. This growth has challenged communities to accommodate the demands of new participants and some have been stretched to dissolution. Studying communities that have survived and evolved reveals that they all find ways to identify and meet the changing desires of their members, often by adopting a hybrid form. For this study, three websites are examined: neilgaiman.com, warrenellis.com, and sequentialtart.com. Choices about who controls contributions and interaction on these sites as well as differing technical approaches suggest many possible axes of comparison but commonalities may yet be insufficient to justify the creation of fixed categories to contain our thoughts on the evolution of social networks. Instead we may productively complicate the simple and idealistic theories currently popular.
The List Serves: Bare Life in Cybernetic Order.
Historicizing the use of lists in power/knowledge contexts prior to the emergence of internet-based technologies, ‘The List Serves: Bare Life in Cybernetic Order’ probes questions of list culture; arguing that the Third Reich’s engagement of a conjunction of early Hollerith/IBM computing technology, listing practices, and discourses of identification and control of ‘bare life,’ represents the first cybernetic feedback system for maintaining social order. Investigating how this conjunction continues to resonate and reverberate in today’s increasingly cybernetic order, this research argues that list culture involves dialectic operations; at once carving out knowledge, and at the same time opening up questions about the constitution of categories and classes by virtue of grouping people/items together.
C: Art and Info-Aesthetics
Moderator: Warren Sack
Going beyond the first generation of net.art, how we envision art forms that utilize networks either as source material or environment? Since the first network drawings there has been a sharp increase in ‘mapping’. It is known that it is hard to imagine networks without a graph in mind. Now we speak in terms of ‘visualization’ which takes us away from the technicality. There is a growing gap between the increased visualization and our understanding of these maps, and networks in general.
Land-stream is an experimental program, which creates a representation of landscape through the analysis of flows (stream) which cross a given space (land). The work takes a pictorial form, which can be static or animated. In this landscapes their initial scientific data are transformed into visual information. Today, when our identity is defined especially by our position in the network, by the information which we emit and which we receive, we fix our attention on these invisible flows and we try to determine their importance, their form and their direction. Thus, the landscape – land(scape) – is not any more one simple relief. It becomes an association of the waves and signals (stream): land-stream.
An Eternal Engine
‘Why does reason not advance smoothly and unhindered?’ A response to this question explores the creation and destruction of lexical effluents as by-product of the use of social software. This process is reconsidered, and presented as a development of a medieval cabbalistic machine. This machine, in its contemporary form, produces as its by-product an unwanted residue. This remainder, as the derivative of a networked machine, is available for re-use. It is argued that instead of their destruction, these leftovers of the process of knowledge production are preserved and recycled.
Heath Bunting from physical space to the net and back again
With Heath Bunting’s seminal work created from the mid 90s to today as my focus I wish to discuss the aesthetics involved in his ’translation’ of concepts and practices from the digital space of the net to physical space. I 1997 at the height of his fame Bunting with Duchampian tongue-in-cheek declared that he would retire as a net artist. Formally he did quit the net art scene, but conceptually and in practice he took his net art to a necessary next level. Thus, he went on to produce a series of work in nature and urban space that developed notions of networks and related notions of hacking, sharing, information access and free culture that were integral to his net art works. I will follow this artistic development to argue that it challenges us to expand current aesthetics of net art works beyond the pure digital realm and that it expresses a productive critique of technology in the society of information.
Network cultures share imaginations of networks. Despite the lack of a consistent scientific network theory, a coherent trans-theoretical trend in today’s network visualization can be observed: even if underlying data and purposes are very divergent, their images look similar. They are created from the same technical and graphical dispositives and produced by similar optimization algorithms for topological problems within the constraints of digital information visualization. Images of networks are complex assemblages themselves. In my presentation I will analyze practices of epistemic image production in Social Network Analysis in respect to the use of certain graphical metaphors and aesthetic traditions, which already come standardized in imaging techniques and therefore escape our attention.
Internet platforms: cultural production in late capitalism
The talk examines various genres of Internet platforms as instruments artistic and cultural production manifests and develops itself through in the digital age. Art platforms and participatory platforms (aka Web 2.0) are analyzed as different techno-ideological mechanisms aimed at crystallization of a cultural practice or self-realization and optimization of social life. Further, they are regarded as practices united by the quest for creativity in the social context. Creativity embodies the central problematic of today’s cultural development: on one hand, it is traditionally understood as the basic emancipatory human activity, on the other hand, it is a resource late capitalism draws upon. The final part of the talk considers failures of Creative Commons and resulting concepts of Free Culture to grasp the nature of production of value in the cultural sphere, their inability to draft the political project of open culture, and considers ways in which online platforms can be seen as structures mirroring the “circulation of struggles” and hosting resistances in their momentarily incarnations of open culture.
Saturday June 30
10.00 – 12.00
A: Actor-Network Theory and Assemblage
Moderator: Noortje Marres
What is special about actor-network theory is that it aspires to take into account the non-humans and emphasize translations or redefinitions. All entities are transformed by their enrolment in specific networks, and their capacities and agency derive from this enrolment. Whilst actor-network theory proposes a dynamic ontology, in its account the main aim of network-building is to produce stable spaces. Actor-network theory was developed to account for socio-technical networks built with the aid of science and technology (shellfish, vaccinations, statistics, diesel engine, seatbelt), but now our question is what becomes of this approach when it is applied to particular new media practices, such as advocacy, publicity and DIY/domestic media. What are the peculiarities of these media practices that would be a productive challenge for actor-network theory?
Suffering in Networks. An exploration into conceptions of marginality, conflict and exploitation in network theories.
What is suffering, what is marginality, conflict, and exploitation in a network? In this contribution I approach these topics using the tools provided by among others Castells/Sassen, Latour/Law, and Deleuze/Guattari. The aim of this exercise is to provide an exploratory taxonomy of how to (re)think suffering in the light of network theories.
Actor-Network Theory – ontologizing realities.
In this paper work of Callon, Latour, Law and other representatives of Actor-Network Theory is employed in order to explore three different approaches relevant and valuable for understanding of organizational processes. I aim at a wide-ranging, yet pragmatic, application of ANT to the area of organization studies. Tracing back an evolution of the theory I will try to ‘perform’ ANT in its distinctive modes. I list and
elaborate on three different forms of social topologies and resulting from them three distinctive objects that can be enacted; namely a network, a region and a fluid. Moreover, in my application I attempt to remodel, adapt and carry out an ANT approach suitable and sensitive to an analysis of organizational processes.
Open Cartographies, On Assembling Things Through Locative Media
This paper applies the recent work of Bruno Latour on object-orientated democracy and assemblage theory in order to complicate an instrumentalist definition of locative technology. In particular, I want to examine how a reflexive approach, inspired by Actor-Network-Theory, is able to trace flows of agency across multiple locations; not simply charting the course through which a triggered locative media event unravels, but openly diagramming the alternate layers of actors, space and time operating as
conditions of possibility. This is of critical importance, I will argue, in order to distinguish the operation of mobile and digital devices from the imperatives of control, surveillance and commercial spectacle characteristic of the contemporary urban experience.
B: Networks and Social Movements
Moderator: Eric Kluitenberg
“The whole world is watching,” is what demonstrators at the Democratic Convention in Chicago in 1968 shouted in Haskall Wexler’s film MEDIUM COOL (USA, 1969). Media networks were seen as a critical source for information, knowledge, and enlightment where you had to make sure you got your message through. Nowadays, media networks have become a target of irony, parody, and mockery, and as means of disconnection as well as tools for connecting movements. Activists rather organize networks through physical movements from event to event and through material objects like leaflets. Are we seeing the signs of post-network social movements?
Faith in Exposure
The paper will question one of the foundational myths of modernity; the widely held belief that ‘knowledge will set you free’. I will use selected visual material from the exhibition I curated entitled Faith in Exposure, as the starting point for a candid examination of how the concept of freedom has changed in the era of networks, arguing that freedom and democracy have actually been transformed since their fates became entangled with the Internet. These are not abstract arguments, there is a great deal at stake as in both in the history of media networks and a wider political history, the concept of freedom enjoys a unique moral status. From early modernity to this day those seeking respect, recognition equality and economic social justice seldom make these claims in isolation but usually as corollaries of liberty.
Assessing Virtual Networks: Human Rights Advocacy in Real- and Cyberspace.
To what extent do online issue networks serve as a proxy for their real-space counterparts in structure and substance? My paper will examine this question through an analysis of the human rights network. Two specific questions will be explored. First, how closely the structure of issue networks as represented on the World Wide Web correspond with actual advocates’ understanding of the players within a specific issue domain? This will be studied by comparing hyperlinks among advocacy websites in the women’s rights networks with survey responses from actual participants in those networks to determine whether hyperlinks provide a useful proxy for advocates’ understandings of who the “gatekeepers” in a network are. Second, to what extent does the online issue agenda correlate to the most prominent issues described by real-space advocates within a transnational network? To study this, I will compare the prominence of issues online in these networks, as determined by a content analysis of advocacy websites, to human rights activists’ survey responses regarding the “most important issue.” This method follows scholars of domestic agenda-setting in attempting to capture the “agenda” in both online and real-space transnational sites and examine the extent to which they correlate or, alternatively, seem disconnected.
Navigating the World Social Forum. Individual orientation in a central node of the global activists’ network
The World Social Forum has created a new “space” and scale for encounter between civil society organisations and independent participants. It constitutes one of the most original and visible new “informal institutions” which have been developed in the context of the politics of alternative globalisation. It also represents the occasion for a networking bonanza. This is due to the nature of the World Social Forum as a central symbolic and material node in a global activists’ network, where the different spatial trajectories traced by participants’ political mobility intersect, together with the connection to a shared host of alternative media outlets and complex sets of interpersonal linkages. In this paper I will analyse how the experience of different individual participants in the forum are articulated by their position within these different networks, and how from this location they develop an orientation within the symbolic and material territory of the forum which help them make sense of their interaction with it. In particular I will analyse participants’ global orientation – orientation to the event as a whole -, and local orientation – orientation towards different events held during the forum – and how they are developed in connection with participants’ position within different networks. Moreover I will consider a series of communicative and spatial closures which characterise such networks and the consequences for patterns of mobilisation at both the local and global level.
The Politics of ‘Truthiness:’ Digital Dissent and Satire as Networks of Activism
How have networks of “digital dissent” countered the spin of U.S. media and politicians over the last four years? What is the role of satire and “fake” news shows like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert? Drawing on our three-year study ‘Rethinking Media, Democracy and Citizenship’ (including 40 interviews with producers of web-based dissent), I present viral video clips that address corporate media and politician’s lies regarding invasion of Iraq and “selection” of George W. Bush. What are users’ and producers’ motivations for engaging in online political engagement? Do online participants feel they have a public voice and/or political efficacy? Our survey and interviews provide new insights about these crises of truth.
Bodies and Swarms: Networks, Multitude, and Biology
Whereas political theory since at least John of Salisbury and Thomas Hobbes has thought the social body in analogy with natural living bodies, a new biology of emergent morphology and distributed causality has made it possible to approach networked political organization as directly connected to the investigation of vital processes. According to Hardt and Negri, the activity of the multitude and the life of the swarm depend on the same underlying dynamics of auto-organization. Within the context of their political project, this claim demands that the network can be understood as an efficacious but ultimately ethically neutral form of organization, while simultaneously valorizing the political content of the network as such. The new democracy of the multitude becomes indistinguishable from its technological basis—a globalized network of multiply connected and continuously communicating nodes—and yet this basis remains fundamentally implicated in the logic of late capitalism. Using Hardt and Negri’s own comments on swarms and swarming in “Multitude”, as well as biologist Brian Goodwin’s remarks on the epigenesis of the social body in “How The Leopard Changed Its Spots,” I want to confront two competing notions of the politics of multitude: a positive conception which sees the flesh of the common in the organization of a new social body, and a negative conception which understands the multitude to stand for a generalized disruption, a resistance “without organs”. If it is possible to resolve the ambiguity between the (quasi-)teleology of the self-organized body and the promise of freedom in the networked encounter, what implications can be drawn for the design of the political and technological networks we are engaged in constructing?
C: Mobility and Organization
Moderator: Sebastian Olma
How are we coping with the space of flows, as Munuel Castells described them? How do scholars these days define the relation between networks and organization, beyond the early euphoria of the ‘virtual office’? What is the dominant business rhetoric, a decade after the rise of the network society?
Marga van Mechelen:
Glocalisation as a curatorial and artistic mission.
The subject of my talk, which is related to my (ASCA) research project Practices in art as network practices, are several conceptions of the term ‘glocalisation’ and their relation to some recent art projects and curatorial practices. In recent years old object orientated art practices are ousted by new global as well as local network practices. Remote areas got access to the international art discours that stimulated new democratic structures to bridge cultural, ethnic, social and gender related gaps, but also the reflection on how being directed on global issues and at the same time engaged with local affairs. It is this duality of global/local, often contracted in the adjective ‘glocal’ that I will focus on, asking also questions such as: What kind of operations are brought into action, who is the addressee and what are the goals of these art practices?
Robert van Boeschoten:
The executive language: Coding the future.
Making sense of Interactive Media project has a lot to do with the use of tools in the process of interaction. This is based on a relation between language and code. What are the embodied signifiers and how do we find our ideals for the future in it? By looking at the process of interaction between these two elements, this paper hopes to shed some light on the creation of value in interdisciplinary work by dealing with different perspectives.
12:00 – 13:00
13.00 – 15:00
A: Anomalous Objects and Processes
Network objects and processes are increasingly characterized by the presence of so-called “bad objects” like viruses, worms, spam, unwanted porn, and so forth. The aim of this panel is to address the question concerning these anomalous objects. In what sense are these bad objects anomalous? And is there, in fact, a certain logic of anomality underpinning contemporary network culture; a counterintuitive logic that escapes the dualisms of good and bad and normal and abnormal? If so, this would imply that these objects are not etymologically “anomalous”, that is, “outside series”, “irregular”, “accidental.” The aim of this panel is to address the question of anomalies by seeking conceptual, analytic and synthetic pathways out of the binary impasse between the good and bad and the normal vs. the abnormal.
Bad Bits: Software and Incorporeal Events
How can software be bad? During the 1980s, a certain incorporeal transformation took place. Due to the new (economic) importance paid to software and network processes, various kinds of self-reproductive and metastable forms of network processes became turned into forms of “bad bits”, unwanted software. During the 1980s, this meant the birth of “viruses” as a key category of malicious software, but included also a host of much further spanning procedures, which exemplified how software code is always embedded in larger assemblages. Material processes have their own duration that is not reducible to signification, but at the same time acts of order-words impose actual transformations in terms of categories, definitions and events. Deleuze and Guattari refer to the incorporeal transformation of an airplane (the plane-body) into a prison-body in a hijacking situation where the transformation is enacted by the “mass media act” as an order word. Similarly, a computer virus has been turned in various assemblages of enunciation (such as mass media acts) into malicious software, a security problem but also a piece of net art, an artificial life project or also a potential beneficial utility program. The presentation approaches this distribution of code across a panorama of societal contexts and discusses the order-words that delineated, channeled and transformed certain bits into societal concerns, “bad bits.”
The Internet treats censorship as a malfunction and routes around it? A new media approach to the study of state Internet censorship.
The research approach put forward here is an exercise in reorienting the study of state Internet censorship. Until now the dominant approach may be described as one that treats Websites as books. To think in terms of single Websites as blocked or accessible in particular countries, like books banned or not banned, also follows from how most filtering software works – it blocks sites from pre-installed URL lists (blacklists). The paper first provides a brief critique of the current approach to Internet censorship research. Generally, here, the Web is not thought of as comprising discrete sites only, that should be found individually and listed as well as described as one would do when hosting a directory. Rather, the Web is considered to be an information circulation space, where ‘routing around censorship’ is labour-intensive. The question becomes how Internet censorship research changes when one begins with hypermedia assumptions. Subsequently, three new media-style approaches to Internet censorship research are introduced: related site dynamic URL sampling, redistributed content discovery and surfer re-routing. The paper includes a discussion of the double-edged implications of such Internet censorship research, including its value to the censor.
On Anomalous Objects of Digitality. An introduction.
Networks are becoming increasingly accidental. Estimates vary, but between 40-80% of daily email traffic is considered surplus to need (spam, viruses, worms etc). However, despite the obvious frustrations, these anomalies often contradict the ostensible friction-free essence of electronic networks and can be understood as novel events, expressive of an open and transformational milieu. Along these lines, this introductory paper draws upon a collection of articles due to be published in The Spam Book (Parikka & Sampson, 2008) in order to highlight ways in which symbiotic network processes not only destabilise the identity of the network, but also challenge the familiar substance/accident dichotomy.
B: Networks and movements: an interdisciplinary conversation
Moderator: Mario Diani
What is the interplay between online and offline relations with and among networks? This session looks empirically into whether collective actions should be thought about in terms of networking. Is there a possible tension between physicality of social movements and intangible quality of networks?
Claudia Padovani & Elena Pavan:
Between Issue and Social Network. Insights from an ongoing research on mobilization on Communication Rights in Italy.
Presented by Elena Pavan.
In the knowledge age, information, communication and related technologies are not only instruments to foster, coordinate and sustain collective action but have become also a site of struggle around which advocacy networks are shaping and developing, nationally as well as trans-nationally. Common discourses, strategies and actions in this context develop both online and offline. A network approach to the investigation of these dynamics seems useful in order to portray the continuous interplay among different levels of practice, the creative use of technologies and the potential impact of mobilizations. This work focuses on the Italian context and shows how issue and social network approaches can productively be jointly applied in the study of communication rights mobilizations. Research questions will be addressed concerning the meaning of networking activities, their features, the meaning of ties (or of their absence) and the role of technology in fostering practices of social networking.
Giorgia Nesti & Matteo Cernison:
Advocacy networks and policy networks in the European Union: the case of media pluralism.
Presented by Giorgia Nesti.
European governance processes are often labeled as ambiguous. The EU institutional context is marked by high complexity, due to the technical nature of the issues at stake;but is also characterized by weakness, due to its political structure, where political parties and representative institutions are underestimated. In order to cope with complex issues and to gain consent and legitimacy, the European Commission has engaged civil society (i.e. interest groups) in policy networks. What emerges is a polycentric system of policy-making where governmental and non governmental actors, mainly from the business sector, take relevant technical decisions and exert influence on policy regulation. Taking European policy for media pluralism as a case-study, the paper is aimed at: a) mapping governmental and non governmental policy networks currently emerging in the context of European media regulation; b) assessing their potential impact on decision-making; c) exploring political implications for the development of a democratic European polity.
Networks of radical tech collectives: Social logic and technological dimensions of emancipatory practices in the field of digital communication.
In response to the commodification of digital communication infrastructures and the subsequent threats to the privacy of individuals and groups, over the past few years we witnessed the emergence of a number of autonomous groups whose aim is to counteract the politics of surveillance enacted by states and capital by providing alternative communications channels. Both tool and part of contemporary social movements, they embody a strong emancipatory mission: free fellow activists from the burdens of commercial web services and empower them through the creative use of free software. Core values include self-organisation, self-determination, equal access and free flow of information. Examples include the Italian server Autistici, offering web-hosting, email accounts and list-serves, the British-German Plentyfact but also more established groups as the British GreenNet. Drawing from a number of interviews with radical techies, the paper will present an overview of the European radical tech collectives, their connections, social logics and technological dimensions.
Consumption Styles and Digital Networks in Italy.
ICTs have been said to play an increasing important role in the development of alternative political repertoires of action and campaigning. ICTs do not just have an instrumental function. Differently form 19th and 20th century newspapers and underground press, websites provide multiple sources of identification available, being a permanent setting of representation for groups and individuals. Focusing on the way ICTs are used by organisations engaged in the promotion of alternative ways of consumption grounded in solidarity principles, the paper exemplify how the Internet and Internet-based methods can be used to study the formation of new social and political actors and actions.
Claudius Wageman & Manuela Caiani
The extreme right, networks, and the internet: a comparison of the multi-organizational field of the extreme right in Italy and Germany.
Presented by Claudius Wageman.
‘Networks’ are increasingly important for the extreme right. On the one hand, right-wing extremists use the internet in order to fix dates; arrange events; and to communicate quickly and effectively with each other. This way helps avoiding too much visibility with hostile forces. On the other hand, the right-wing sector in general increasingly relies on network organizational structures. Fix structures are avoided, since they would permit state authorities to intervene against them. Through social network analysis based on web linkages between organizations, our paper aims to explore the structure and the nature of the multi-organizational field of the Italian and German extreme right, both with regard the communication and the organizational dimension.
C: The Global and the Local
Moderator: Reinder Rustema
It’s easy to deconstruct McLuhan’s ‘global village’ and even more so to reject place-specific metaphors such as ‘digital city’ and ‘homepage’ as retro constructs. If we downplay the totalizing syntheses of the local and global, we run the risk to misunderstand important cultural dynamics within networks. Instead of pushing ‘the local’ as a universal solution for today’s problems, we have to carefully re-assess the interaction between ‘place’ and ‘flow’. The importance of language, cultural identities, gender and race are not ‘politically correct’ items in some discursive chess play but are valuable elements in a patchwork of case studies that tell us how networks are both embedded and escape the traditional understanding of locality.
Conceptualizing Semantics and Ontologies in a New Network Era
This talk will explore several dimensions of my global cross-cultural collaborative research with ethnically-diverse populations, the focus being the study of how technologies may be sculpted to represent diverse epistemologies held by ethnic, indigenous, and diasporic populations. I shall argue that as the syntax and structure of cultural discourses fundamentally differentiates communities, systems also must acknowledge such differences. Databases can begin to take on attributes of complex adaptive systems, and the ‘universality’ of top-down web systems can be de-bunked. This movement shall be described relative to several of my field-based ethnographic projects with indigenous communities, including a. The National Science Foundation funded Emergent Databases collaboration with the Zuni, NM. b. Historical work done with the Native tribes of Southern California
and c. Ongoing work with South Asian migrants in the Los-Angeles region. Each of these projects weaves ethnographic, system design, and participatory action-type methods to uncover data that reveals the power of database-driven systems to serve local sociocultural realities.
Communicative Societies in a Networked World.
Societies differ in the ways they communicate, within themselves and with others. They vary in the grounds on which communication is established, what its drivers are once initiated, what is productive and what destructive in nurturing communication, and so on. Macedonia is very much a communicative society. An experience is not truly experienced, until it is shared. And the collective experience for the past decade – in which visa requirements from very liberal were made extremely stringent – has been an inward one, where much of the information about the outside world was gathered and aspects of communication within Macedonian society were harnessed through the Net. Social software has complemented a traditionally and intuitively embedded sense for networking. Old and new aspects of communication have mixed in a unique local experience.
The Political Importance of Internet Cafes in Jordan and Egypt.
This paper provides an overview of the kinds of people hanging out in internet cafes in Jordan and Egypt. It profiles their use, in terms of how many hours they spend on line, what they do on-line and in their own words, how such access has changed their lives. This paper concludes with an analysis of what internet use among the masses might mean for the future of Arab politics, specifically for the persistence of authoritarianism in the region.
15.30 – 17.30
Closing session conference
The special effect of issue-affectedness. On being sensitive to the normative charges of networks.
In recent times, the concept of the network has served as a heuristic for deflating the normative dimensions of social life. It has assisted in the marginalization of notions like ‘class’, ‘domination’ and ‘discipline’ as it opened up a world that is no longer troubled by a constitutive problematics, but consists of an open-ended set of lateral connections. However, an earlier theoretical tradition, namely American Pragmatism, in a sense made the opposite move: it placed networks at the center of social theory in order to account for the social problems of technological societies. Thus, John Dewey argued that to develop a grasp of the challenges of industrial life, we must focus on the everchanging distributions of effects of industry, migration and innovation that keep disrupting social life. In this talk, I will take the pragmatist commitment to do justice to this dramatic dimension of industrial life as a starting point for formulating a few requirements for network theory. Firstly, I will discuss the importance of not distinguishing too strictly between various types of networks (transport, communication, and substance flows). As actor-network theory has suggested, it is precisely out of the interferences among heterogenous connections that issues arise. Secondly, I will highlight one modality of connection in particular, that of affect. Importantly, pragmatism suggested that social problems are articulated in events, in which distributed actors are demonstrably affected by an issue. This raises the question of how, in such events of ‘issuefication,’ social ties become charged with this affect of issue-affectedness. Finally, I discuss the ambivalence of networked forms of issue formation. As affective charges may not translate into anything else, due to the unreliability of network connections, issue-affectedness may easily turn into a deception to be resisted.
Requests, Recommendations and Standards: RFC10 and reflexive engineering.
Cultural theory is always looking to find that moment when it can say , ‘Ha! This engineering stuff, it has an embedded cultural predeterminations, we will be the sweet angels who reveal them’. RFC 10, a foundational document in the development of the Internet is a set of rules of thumb for the discussion of network architecture which explicitly includes cultural concerns and the ethic of an open network. This text will be used as a basis for the discussion of the cultural effects of Requests, Recommendations and Standards and the development of the semantic web.