I’m going to start off this post with my understandings of the dynamic nature of a Network Culture. I will try my best to put together a diagram to illustrate my perceptions on this topic.
A Population of Simple Machines as Building Blocks to A Living Organism
Imagine a cluster of machines organised with interconnections, interactivities, dynamism and flows that is self-sustaining like any other life forms. These machines are so simple and organic that they resemble units, or nodes, of a network. They are decentralised and do not obey to any figure. Neither are they reacting to any particular events or eruptions. Such living organism is not framed by any kind of power structure, relation or paradigm. Nothing is predictable. Nobody reigns.
I would picture this concept, also known as a ‘multitude’ (Terranova 2004, p. 103), as an overlap of Manual Castell’s ‘Network Society’ (1996) and a honey beehive that symbolises collaboration as well as labour. (Excuse the unprofessional diagram!) Yet, the resultant diagram (as shown below) only captures a moment of a multitude. Although the darker spots seem to be more active than their peer-nodes, this is only a representation of that split of second when that activity is precisely unfolding.
In Terranova’s words, this whole idea of a multitude performing life in indeterminate manners is encapsulated in processes that are
grasped in terms not only of their risks but also of their potential conceived from the perspective of the replicability of open and productive structures. (ibid)
Affect and the Affected as Paradoxical Consciousnesses
Finding balance, containing it, becoming it…
Speaking of politics in terms of ‘affect’ enlightens an array of philosophical thinkings that pave the way for hopeful incessant liberation of traditional power structures. The mechanism of such mentality is itself producing hope, as a momentum for bodies to activate their potential and progress in a transcendental way. In simple terms, it’s like living in the moment to its fullest. Social theorist Brian Massumi (2002) puts it this way:
When you affect something, you are at the same time opening yourself up to being affected in turn, and in a slightly different way than you might have been the moment before… Affect is this passing of a threshold, seen from the point of view of the change in capacity…The experience of a change, an affecting-being affected, is redoubled by an experience of the experience.This gives the body’s movements a kind of depth that stays with it across all its transitions – accumulating in memory, in habit, in reflex, in desire, in tendency. (ibid)
This is the exact experience we have with the enabling role of today’s technology – Web2.0, social networks and mobile smart devices – through which our sense of connectivity and interactivity with one another is maturing. The extent to which this army of citizen strengthens in tandem with a constantly evolving concept of citizenship is uncertain. However, seeing what we’ve come to so far with this ecology of practice, many of us believe in the capacitating role of micropolitics, of grass-root social movements, of a bottom-up situation.
Citizen-Based Transitions: The Margin of Manoeuvrability
As the founder and executive director of Code for America, Jennifer Pahika (2012) is among those who have faith in coding a better government through fixing the reality, reinventing the concept, as well as reconfiguring the value of citizenship. The willingness of citizens in this situation is facilitated by the aforementioned contemporary technologies to extend their affective capacities, as extensions of the mind. As she ends her speech with the rhetorical question:
When it comes to the big, important things that we need to do together, all of us together, are we just going to be a crowd of voices, or are we also going to be a crowd of hands? (ibid)
the significance of productivity emerges as the steppingstone to fulfilling the common goal of the public and the collective, OR the swarm. This is not strictly speaking. And nevertheless, motives of individuals can often carry emotions that serve diverse purposes, and do not always share a common vision or ideal.
The Unpredictable Potentials of Kony
The phenomenal rapport Kony has generated, both on the Internet and in actual reality, is an epitome of this paradox, wherein we tend to seek freedom within systems by refraining the refrains. But like Massumi said, this is “not necessarily about escaping from constraints” (2002).
There’s an openness of movement, even though there’s no escaping constraint. (ibid)
The enormous populace of Kony supporters is gathered through a solid Twitter congregation in addition to over 100-million YouTube viewers. According to Ethan Zuckerman’s reference (2012) to Gilad Lotan’s analysis on the success of Invisible Children, there are six critical aspects that contribute to the downfall of how advocacy organisations are organised. These include
- haven’t met their supporters,
- don’t have a Twitter “army”,
- speak to too many audiences,
- having been too influenced by their policy staff,
- have too many campaigns and calls to action, and
- aren’t aligned towards the social web.
It is interesting to note that 4. represents an over-framing of organisations and how that can be a trouble for us seeing through the clutter of political objectives and social voices. The differentiation between affect and emotion, and the reality it implies, can easily spiral such organisations/events into various unpredictable directions. The denotative uncertainty of situations cannot be stressed more.
Castell, Michel (1996), The Rise of the Network Society, Oxford: Wiley Blackwel
Massumi, Brian (2002) ‘Navigating Movements: A Conversation with Brian Massumi’, in Mary Zournazi (ed.) Hope: New Philosophies for Change, pp. 210-243
Pahika, Jennifer (2012), ‘Coding a better government’, TED Conferences, filmed in March, accessed 5 May 2012, <http://www.ted.com/talks/jennifer_pahlka_coding_a_better_government.html>
Terranova, Tiziana (2004), ‘From Organisms to Multitudes’ In Network Culture: Politics for the Information Age London: Pluto: 101-106
Zuckerman, Ethan (2012), ‘Useful Reads of Kony 2012’, weblog, 14 March, accessed 5 May 2012, <http://www.ethanzuckerman.com/blog/2012/03/14/useful-reads-on-kony-2012/>