[iDC] New Network Theory Post-Conference Thoughts

tiziana tterra at fastwebnet.it
Mon Jul 9 15:33:14 EDT 2007

Dear idc-ers

I want to thank lilly for posting these remarks about the new network 
theory conference and add a few pointers for those who are intrigued or 
simply interested in some of these debates and would like to know more.

My paper at the nnt conference was basically a kind of reflection on 
some very interesting readings I have done lately, all of which cast a 
different perspectives on recent debates on the web 2.0, market and 
nonmarket forces at work on the Internet etc.

In particular, I have been intrigued by industry writings on the web 2.0 
(o reilly, andressen etc) and the debates on this list about it. I am 
interested in the ways in which the net economy keeps throwing 
challenges both to liberal and marxist thinking about the economy.

My thought experiment was thus this (anybody who would like to repeat it 
can do so but some  knowledge of French might be needed)

a. read benkler's book the wealth of networks about the limits of the 
free market from a political and economic liberal perspective (at last! 
but not by an economist, by a law professor endorsed by other law 
professors: why?)

b. get hold of foucault's lectures from 1978/1979  recently published in 
french albeit not yet translated in English. Take in carefully 
Foucault's polemics with Marxist readings of neoliberalism, especially 
those readings which claim that neoliberalism is only an extreme version 
of capitalism. Meditate on Foucault's reading of liberal and neoliberal 
economics and his implicit suggestion that the market is a mechanism of 
power (albeit not in the fetishistic sense that orthodox Marxist believe 
it to be...) =-O

c. have a look at Maurizio Lazzarato's Les Revolutions du Capitalisme 
especially at his critique ofthe Marxist conception of labor (and 
cooperation based on the model of the division of labor) and at his 
notion that the social relation constitutes the productive (ok he would 
not use that word) core of the economy.

then sit back and let some new thoughts 'emerge' ;-)


tiziana terranova

p.s. i won't be able to be much online in the next few days due to some 
heavy duty travelling I need to do, but I will be checking my email from 
cybercafes  and if somebody has already performed this experiment and 
would like to discuss some of his/her emergent thoughts, I will try to 

lilly nguyen wrote:

> So Trebor asked me to put together a short overview of the New Network 
> Theory Conference that just took place in Amsterdam. Overall, it was 
> an incredibly stimulating experience with lots of interesting ideas 
> floated around and so this email will discuss reoccuring themes that 
> struck me.
> You can go to the liveblog for a more detailed overview of all the 
> panels: http://mastersofmedia.hum.uva.nl/. Also you can see the 
> program here: http://www.networkcultures.org/networktheory/
> [Be warned: email is office friendly but rather long… ;)]
> First, there were some really interesting critiques of web 2.0 and 
> social software more broadly.
> There were overall skeptics of the promise of “openness” in open 
> source production, Warren Sack specifically mentioned his work looking 
> at the python development community and the hierarchal structures 
> involved, and wikipedia was also mentioned in the same way. Several 
> individuals questioned the novelty of notions of 
> “user-generated-content”, which I wholly agree with and would 
> personally argue for a reconceptualization of UGC as part of a longer 
> tradition of cultural evolution, engagement, and, creativity, 
> creation, and innovation. Additionally, the notion of UGC brings about 
> a new subjectivity of users as such, which I think is an interesting 
> idea that requires some more serious consideration. The role of 
> private business in this larger web 2.0 framework was raised several 
> times and Tiziana Terranova had some really interesting points about 
> the new forms of capital in an internet economy. One of her main 
> points was that we now see a shift where social relations and linking 
> are the currency and capital in a net economy, where the capture of 
> attention, memory, desires, and beliefs becomes a fundamental part of 
> forming networks. Over the course of the conference, it became 
> increasingly clear to me that the role of business in structuring and 
> shaping the internet and represents a new economic logic that defines 
> web 2.0, in spite of the rhetoric that is put forth about it. User 
> practices and engagement may not be new, but the face there is now a 
> business incentive to facilitate and harness this that is, in fact, new.
> Metaphors of performance and performativity came up quite a bit during 
> the conference, however often in passing. Oftentimes, there was a 
> conflation of the two and people used these terms to describe the 
> things that people do in networks. However, it is important to 
> understand them as separate, where one represents (performance) and 
> the other articulates and enacts (performative). Given the mediated 
> dimensions of networks, btn people and digital artifacts, I think 
> there are some interesting questions of network engagement through the 
> prism of the performance-performative distinction. In this way, 
> network maps or online network don’t just represent our clusters of 
> relations but that they also enact, embody, and entail them as well.
> Related to this idea, is the critique that came up of how oftentimes 
> we also conflate the network as a diagram-representation of social 
> phenomena and social phenomena itself. This kind of reflexive critique 
> was part of a larger interest in the ways in which we imagine and 
> perceive networks and how this, in turn, shapes how we engage in/with 
> them.
> Additionally, there were a lot of concerns regarding surveillance and 
> we can clearly see how our perceptions of surveillance (from 
> government agencies, to google, to parents and kids on myspace) might 
> contour our understanding of network spaces and the types of actions 
> we may taken within them. Alan Liu very elegantly discussed the 
> dialectic between surveilling/authoritive policing versus 
> knowledge/creativity and asked “Where should authority be placed in 
> the data architecture of web 2.0?”
> An interesting set of questions that came up relate to notions of 
> time, memory, and history in networks. During one session (I forgot 
> who), someone asked if networks grow and evolve, do networks ever 
> finish? This continued in other panels with questions regarding 
> history: do networks, in fact, have a history or histories? Does 
> history exist in the nodes of networks or in the links of networks? 
> Wendy Chun briefly mentioned the idea of the enduring ephemeral in 
> networks and the role of memory in networks which she provocatively 
> described as repetition and regeneration of storage.
> Those were my key takeaways, definitely lots of fodder and I hope that 
> this helped to stimulate more questions and discussions. If other 
> conference attendees are on the list it'd be great to get your insight 
> and comments as well!
> -lilly
> Lilly Nguyen
> PhD Student, Dept. of Information Studies
> lillynguyen at ucla.edu <mailto:lillynguyen at ucla.edu>
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