New Network Theory- Parallel Sessions- ‘Network Theory’

On: June 30, 2007
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New Network TheoryThis session moderated by Geert Lovink, follows a specificic route; from basic infrastructural levels of networking towards more philosophical thoughts.

The first speaker is Tincuta Parv, she works with critical problems related to works dealing with techno-scientifical aspects.

Her work focusses on how we can cope with networks since they change all the time. It is a problem of dynamics. She adresses this problem by using the first model of networking; the textile web and the different patterns possible. Which she parallels to the current Internet dynamics in order to make a distinction between methaphorical, methodological an technological aspects which when analyzed, can probably show the pattern similarities. This then, ultimately gives answers of how the Internet network has to be approached.
From this rather technical approach to networks, Verena Kuni an art & media theorist, historian and critic, gives a hands on example of Internet dynamics; the dynamic knitting community. The times when knitting was only ‘allowed’ as a serious practise for your (grand)mother, are over. Knitting is hot, everybody does it. What has constituted this, is web 2.0. Knitting communities start on the Internet, they blog, they prosume etc. Knitting itself is a network, but their online community and new sales techniques conquer the world big time!

Marianne van den Boomen backs away from knitting. In her research she has tried to transcode the Internet by metaphors. To do so, she poses six relevant statements;

1. There are no media anymore (no stable ontology for media due to digitality)
2. There are endless remediations and transcodings instead of media (media are processes)
3. Virtual community is a transcoding metaphor (imagined community at a virtual space)
4. Web 2.0 communities are no virtual communities (it is too much fragmented)
5. Web 2.0 is a transcoding metaphor (upgrade of 1.0, nested scripts instead of a package etc.)
6. The Network is a metaphor as well (any system with nodes and relations)

Van Den Boomen concludes with Latour’s statement that maps of networks are after effects of research, not the starting points.

From this unstable approach of Internet theory the session continues with the not less stable foam theory of Mirko Tobias Schaefer who currently writes on his dissertation Bastard Culture! Competent Users, Networks and Cultural Industries.

His main argument is that we need new methods to map social relations on the internet. He states that there are different layers of interaction, no strict borders between communities, pseudo-communities and massive user interaction. They are permeable. Schaefer sees the web as a sociotechnological ecosystem which best approach is to consider it like foam (Sloterdijk, 2004); beer or shampoo, whatever you like most. Because of its multi chamber systems whose cells are seperated by thin cells which are highly permeable, this would be the best metaphor for the Internet network.

The session concludes with architect and philosopher Leslie Kavanaugh, who keeps it short due to late lunch issues. She argues that knowledge is produced instead of found. With the Internet we can make connections and disconnect at will. Individuals are self-generated but also interact. She proposes the Reticulum to make the network more specific; providing a model of a unified whole without falling into the “traps” befalling traditional metaphysics. This net takes into account that it has many sources and is rather chaotic. Such an approach tries to create some order, but this won’t be easy at all.

Networks are linked parts but not necessarily logical or understandable, this is the key statement that can be taken away from this session, networks need to be researched more in-depth.

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