intro by Nat Muller
Today the topic is networks, and more specifically how they work when we think of cultural communities, onsite and online. Now this is of course a really large topic, but our speakers will break it down for you in bite-size pieces, and just as an appetizer let me throw a few thoughts at you.
Within the field of new media practice and new media critique “the dream of networks”, and let us add perhaps the “nightmare of networking” to realize it, has been pretty hot. The “Network” as idea, as creative, philosophical – even ontological – concept and act, has been very much at the forefront of debates. However, a lot of unclarity and mystification still surrounds the idea of “networks” and how they function. Today, we will not offer you knock-out definitions, but our various speakers will unpack certain ideas, working very much from their practice as artists, culture makers and facilitators, activists and critics. The accounts will be from “the belly” of the network, if you will, and will hopefully also debunk a few myths as we go along.
Traditionally there has been this division between social networks and information networks. Social networks being based on the fact that the actors exchange information in terms of collaboration, info-networks being the proliferation of information through networks. There’s somewhere also a naive idea that social networks operate in a horizontal fashion and are formless. Dutch political philosopher Noortje Marres has written a lot about so-called “issue networks”, more particular the politics involved in network formation around particular issues. Networks is about form, because they define how things get organized and take shape. Networks are always about specifics: issues. So that’s content.
She has called to look at networks as sites for transformation, places where new entities get articulated by specifically looking at the drama in the networks – this was something she mentioned at an expert meeting in networks in January of this year. Geert Lovink and Ned Rossiter, for example, in their essay about “Organised networks” where the flyer quote is taken from have written very interestingly about how pockets of power are distributed within networks, and how issues and relations which govern the networks are temporal and always in flux. They claim that “organized networks” are the ultimate Foucault machines, which is a very interesting way of looking at it.