Dawn of the Organised Networks | Fiberculture the Journal

by Geert Lovink and Ned Rossiter

At first glance the concept of “organised networks” appears oxymoronic. In technical terms, all networks are organised. There are founders, administrators, moderators and active members who all take up roles. Think also back to the early work on cybernetics and the “second order” cybernetics of Bateson and others. Networks consist of mobile relations whose arrangement at any particular time is shaped by the “constitutive outside” of feedback or noise.[1] The order of networks is made up of a continuum of relations governed by interests, passions, affects and pragmatic necessities of different actors. The network of relations is never static, but this is not to be mistaken for some kind of perpetual fluidity. Ephemerality is not a condition to celebrate for those wishing to function as political agents.

Why should networks get organised? Isn’t their chaotic, disorganised nature a good thing that needs to be preserved? Why should the informal atmosphere of a network be disturbed? Don’t worry. Organised networks do not yet exist. The concept presented here is to be read as a proposal, a draft, in the process of becoming that needs active steering through disagreement and collective elaboration.[2] What it doesn’t require is instant deconstruction. Everyone can do that. Needless to say, organised networks have existed for centuries. Just think of the Jesuits. The history of organised networks can and will be written, but that doesn’t advance our inquiry for now. The networks we are talking about here are specific in that they are situated within digital media. They can be characterised by their advanced irrelevance and invisibility for old media and p-in-p (people in power). General network theory might be useful for enlightenment purposes, but it won’t answer the issues that new media based social networks face. Does it satisfy you to know that molecules and DNA patterns also network?

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