With this first issue dedicated to exploring Politics after Networks we launch spheres: journal for digital cultures. The journal is run by an editorial collective based at the Centre for Digital Cultures, Leuphana University of Lüneburg, and is supported by an international advisory board. It engages in contemporary, historical and emerging discussions concerning digital cultures and explores the social, cultural and political stakes at play by reassembling key concepts such as public spheres, media spheres and atmospheres. The journal invites exchanges between scholars, policy makers, media artists, activist and hackers, and offers a space where solicited contributions (after a first peer review) are openly reviewed through invited comments. (more…)
In this time of peace, plenty, and the rule of law, it is less likely that you will be inconvenienced by barbarian horse archers than a planned bypass road that the local city council has not told you about. Or perhaps your country is secretly trading away food subsidies for increased export quotas. Though we are equal before the law, inconsistencies in its access remain. The ability to hear and make oneself heard is essential to find common ground, and common ground is a necessary prerequisite for action in a democracy. (more…)
To control information and where it travels is to control the economic and political base of contemporary society. The management and regulation of resources like base stations, servers, satellites, and antennas are central, but none more so than the physical media itself: fibre-optic cables, telephone lines and electromagnetic spectrum.1Spectrum concerns the frequencies used for all wireless and mobile transmissions, from broadcast technologies such as radio and television, through to networks of all kinds today such as cellular, the mobile Internet, sensor networks, smart grids etc. In Spectrum Access and the Public Sphere, Beli argues that recent changes to the management of spectrum, coupled with material transformations taking place in mobile network infrastructure, are supporting the development of community-operated mesh networks. These networks in turn might foster an engaged and egalitarian relationship with media that enhance the public sphere beyond the behest of corporate monopolies and/or the state. (more…)
|1.||￪||Spectrum concerns the frequencies used for all wireless and mobile transmissions, from broadcast technologies such as radio and television, through to networks of all kinds today such as cellular, the mobile Internet, sensor networks, smart grids etc.|
We have entered the first phase of the revolt of the knowledge class. The protests associated with the Occupy movement, Chilean student protests, the Montreal protests, European anti-austerity protests, some components of the protests of the Arab spring, as well as multiple ongoing and intermittent strikes of teachers, civil servants, and medical workers all over the world, are protests of those proletarianized under communicative capitalism. These are not struggles of the multitude, struggles for democracy, or struggles specific to local contexts. Nor are they merely the defensive struggles of a middle class facing cuts to social services, wage stagnation, unemployment, and declining home values. They are fronts in a class war under the conditions of global communicative capitalism. (more…)
In Communicative Capitalism and Class Struggle, Jodi Dean argues that recent manifestations such as Occupy, should be understood as manifestations of class war in the context of the changing nature of capitalist exploitation, rather than as middle class episodes of defensive politics. According to Dean, it is only once we consider the changing role of production in this latest phase of capitalist development that we can recognize how, where and in what ways class war is manifested in the current capitalist terrain. At the centre of this argument is her concept of communicative capitalism that has become a recurring thesis in her writing and presentations over the last years.1For a few examples, see the following sources: Jodi Dean, “Why the Net Is Not a Public Sphere”, Constellations, 10 (1), 2003, pp. 95–112; Dean, “Communicative Capitalism: Circulation and the Foreclosure of Politics”, Cultural Politics 1(1), 2005, pp. 51–74; Dean, Democracy and Other Neoliberal Fantasies: Communicative Capitalism and Left Politics, Durham, Duke University Press, 2009; Dean, The Communist Horizon, London, Verso, ...continue Communicative capitalism, simply put, is the process through which communication itself has become subsumed into capitalist production. As Dean notes, it is a concept that elicits some parallels to what has been referred to elsewhere as the “knowledge economy, information society and cognitive capitalism”, however, there are also differences, which are integral to understanding her argument. (more…)
|1.||￪||For a few examples, see the following sources: Jodi Dean, “Why the Net Is Not a Public Sphere”, Constellations, 10 (1), 2003, pp. 95–112; Dean, “Communicative Capitalism: Circulation and the Foreclosure of Politics”, Cultural Politics 1(1), 2005, pp. 51–74; Dean, Democracy and Other Neoliberal Fantasies: Communicative Capitalism and Left Politics, Durham, Duke University Press, 2009; Dean, The Communist Horizon, London, Verso, 2012.|
This is an excerpt of an article written in 2004. The long version can be found here.
What were networks? The idea that we live inside networks has become so familiar as to seem unremarkable. If we don’t already perceive ourselves to be fundamentally networked creatures, we are at least comfortable with living in a “network society” or seeing a network from the “inside out” or running up against one of a thousand buddy lists, circles and networks of highly heterogeneous and diverse kinds.1Manuel Castells, The Network Society, Malden MA, Blackwell, 1996; Annelise Riles, The Network Inside Out, Ann Arbor MI, Michigan University Press, 2002. As Knox et. al. point out, there is a remarkable lack of consistency to the various theoretical and methodological approaches to understanding “networks”.2Hannah Knox, Mike Savage and Penny Harvey, “Social Networks and the Study of Relations: Networks as Methods, Metaphor and Form”, Economy and Society, 35(1), 2006, pp. 113–140. Different disciplines from sociology and anthropology to graph theory in mathematics all claim networks as their province without any real agreement that they are talking about the same thing. But what were networks? Are the Internet and a kinship network at all the same thing? Is the Internet a network? It seems silly to ask: but by what theory and definition should we make sense of that statement? What would it have meant for the Internet to be a network now, as opposed to 20 years ago? (more…)
|1.||￪||Manuel Castells, The Network Society, Malden MA, Blackwell, 1996; Annelise Riles, The Network Inside Out, Ann Arbor MI, Michigan University Press, 2002.|
|2.||￪||Hannah Knox, Mike Savage and Penny Harvey, “Social Networks and the Study of Relations: Networks as Methods, Metaphor and Form”, Economy and Society, 35(1), 2006, pp. 113–140.|
Against Networks was first written in 2004. It is a bit of an odd article, one that is apparently more interesting on the continent (where this is the second time an excerpt will be published) than it is in the UK or the US (where it has been rejected twice, but has a small, curious and friendly readership). I suspect this has something to do with the relative and inscrutable boundary policing of Actor-Network Theory (ANT). The article started as a critique of ANT – or more precisely, a critique of what ANT theorists were not doing. It developed over time into a more general attempt to think through networks and infrastructure – concepts that share the problem of being both analytical tools and very clearly material things in the world. Indeed, the piece was substantially written before, or just about the same time as the explosion of ‘social media’ – a time just before we started to talk easily and everywhere about social networks and social graphs. With hindsight, I am even less sure that anyone today, academic or otherwise, knows quite what they mean when they use the word network, or the word social, much less social network. So I am still against networks. (more…)
“One thing about which fish know absolutely nothing is water, since they have no anti-environment which would enable them to perceive the element they live in.”1Marshall McLuhan, War and Peace in the Global Village, New York, Bantam, 1968, p. 175.
Having Marshall McLuhan’s famous quote in mind, it may seem odd that the first issue of a new web journal for digital cultures includes an article that argues “against networks”. Not only is its author obviously aware of the element that surrounds him, it seems that this one is daring to achieve the impossible by encouraging resistance against his own medium of communication. The network, however, does not seem to care much that one of its inhabitants actually attempts to create an anti-environment within its nodes and edges: Without hesitation, my browser fetched the data that is now being displayed to me in the readable form of Christopher Kelty’s thought-provoking text. Kelty’s critique of networks has become a part of the very thing that he criticized in the first place. Is this transmission of a potentially subversive message, one might ask, simply an example of the general indifference of a network towards its content? Or is it a proof of the omnipotence of the one network of networks that will ultimately assimilate everything and everyone? Even if Kelty defiantly sends a bunch of IP packets after his first ones upholding the position that he is “still against networks”, it seems that resistance is futile. (more…)
|1.||￪||Marshall McLuhan, War and Peace in the Global Village, New York, Bantam, 1968, p. 175.|
From the internet’s humble beginnings as a handful of interconnected machines in the 1960s to its wide distribution in the 1990s, noone could have foreseen what it has grown into today – a public network open to all who have access to a screen with a connection to the web.1B.M. Leiner et al., “A Brief History of the Internet”, ACM SIGCOMM Computer Communication Review, 39(5), 2009. The digital environment has become as much of a real space as a park, coffee shop, town square, clothing store or a couch in your living room. People have actively integrated their lives with their digital doings to the point that they are becoming digital beings. This paper serves to discuss digital as a space for politics to play out, in particular in relation to publics and counter publics. It does so through the lens of what occurred in 2012 at Johannesburg Pride2From herein referred to as Joburg Pride, Joburg is a shortening of Johannesburg and is used instead of Johannesburg by the South African LGBTIAQ community. South Africa. To explore lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, asexual and queer (LGBTIAQ) identities, Pride, publics and counter publics through digital spaces, this paper requires a theoretical grounding in queer theory and internet studies. It is vital for the discussion of digital space in relation to queer politics and counter publics that a fairly detailed context of what occurred at Joburg Pride 2012 is provided, as well as a broader background of Joburg Pride since the inaugural parade was held in 1990. The discussion then moves on to unpacking identity and its relation to the internet, and the opportunities the internet affords LGBTIAQ people with particular attention paid to publics and counter publics. (more…)
|1.||￪||B.M. Leiner et al., “A Brief History of the Internet”, ACM SIGCOMM Computer Communication Review, 39(5), 2009.|
|2.||￪||From herein referred to as Joburg Pride, Joburg is a shortening of Johannesburg and is used instead of Johannesburg by the South African LGBTIAQ community.|
Nyx McLean’s text Considering the Internet as Enabling Queer Publics/Counter Publics explores the possibilities for underrepresented groups to work through conflicts and create a safer space for discussion within LGBTIAQ communities. Her striking example is what happened during Gay Pride in Johannesburg (Joburg Pride) 2012, where members of the One in Nine campaign protested against sexual violence and corrective rape, by interrupting the parade by staging a ‘die-in’. They were threatened and delegitimised by the organisers of Joburg Pride. This “disturbance of the peace” stirred further conflicts and showed how fragmented the South African LGBTIAQ community in fact is, and how questions of class and race are being suppressed within this major public event. (more…)
This text is an edited version of an essay written for the Post-Media Lab at Leuphana University of Lüneburg: Rodrigo Nunes, Organisation of the Organisationless. Collective Action after Networks, London & Lüneburg, Mute & Post Media Lab, 2014.
The ‘choice’ for networked, internet-reliant organising can only be partially understood as a ‘free choice’ in the fuller sense. It is true that a rejection of formal organisational ties – seen as almost inevitably leading to the formation of hierarchies, bureaucratisation, a lack of transparency and the democratic deficit denounced in contemporary representative systems – is an important part of the ‘spontaneous philosophy’ of movements of this century. But what enables and strengthens the resolve to avoid these formal structures is the fact that, because of the internet, co-ordinated collective action is considered possible without them. More than this, it is something people already do on a daily basis, it is what they already do with friends and families independently from politics. A network logic structures the everyday lives of most people, from the way they work to how they interact in their leisure time, so that networked organisation is literally what ‘comes naturally’ to them – which makes it easy to understand why formal organisation can be seen as an avoidable, unnecessary risk.1Clay Shirky analyses this in economic terms as a collapse of the costs of group formation that entails a loss in the relative advantages of institutionalisation – since activities that would previously require institutions can now be pursued with much lither co-ordinating structures. Clay Shirky, Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations, London, Allen Lane, 2008. (more…)
|1.||￪||Clay Shirky analyses this in economic terms as a collapse of the costs of group formation that entails a loss in the relative advantages of institutionalisation – since activities that would previously require institutions can now be pursued with much lither co-ordinating structures. Clay Shirky, Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations, London, Allen Lane, 2008.|
Recent events, such as the uprisings during the so-called Arab Spring, the anti-corruption movement in India or the protests against social and economic inequalities in Europe and beyond, have triggered a debate among activists, scholars and policy makers on how new social movements are being organised. Most of the publications on this topic, such as Eric Kluitenberg’s Legacies of Tactical Media, Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri’s Declaration or Gabriella Coleman’s fresh from the press study about Anonymous, implicitly or explicitly tackle the problem of political organisation, in particular the question of leadership, representation and decision-making.1Cp. Eric Kluitenberg, Legacies of Tactical Media, Amsterdam, Institute of Network Cultures, 2011; Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Declaration, New York NY, Argo-Navis, 2012; Gabriella Coleman, Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy: The Many Faces of Anonymous, New York NY, Verso, 2014. Rodrigo Nunes’ essay The Organisation of the Organisationless,2Cp. Rodrigo Nunes, Organisation of the Organisationless: Collective Action after Networks, London & Lüneburg, Mute & Post Media Lab, 2014. of which an edited version is published here, takes up these threads and knits them into a fine analytical piece. Opposing the binary scheme between horizontality and centralism, which is most often taken into account when explaining organisational models, Nunes proposes a different approach to analyse the formation and mechanics of recent social and political movements. Neither the Leninist vanguard nor the libertarian imagination of a per se democratic network are, therefore, suitable concepts for understanding the transformations in interventionist politics since the turn of the millennium. (more…)
|1.||￪||Cp. Eric Kluitenberg, Legacies of Tactical Media, Amsterdam, Institute of Network Cultures, 2011; Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Declaration, New York NY, Argo-Navis, 2012; Gabriella Coleman, Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy: The Many Faces of Anonymous, New York NY, Verso, 2014.|
|2.||￪||Cp. Rodrigo Nunes, Organisation of the Organisationless: Collective Action after Networks, London & Lüneburg, Mute & Post Media Lab, 2014.|
Review of: Felix Stalder, Digital Solidarity, London & Lüneburg, Mute & Post-Media Lab, 2013.
Felix Stalder begins his book with a story. The tale is about the creation of Iceland’s post-economic-crisis constitution, which was drafted by a collective of individuals (rather than elected representatives) – reflecting what Stalder feels is
“a new subjectivity […] made possible by a new sense of solidarity that is not limited to Iceland or Europe, but can be seen to be struggling to emerge, in a wide variety of ways and forms, in many places around the world.”1Stalder, p. 9.
|1.||￪||Stalder, p. 9.|
Review of: Andreas Treske, The Inner Life of Video Spheres. Theory for the YouTube Generation, Amsterdam, Institute of Network Cultures, 2013.
Andreas Treske calls for a paradigmatic shift in the study of video. His concept of a video sphere addresses the almost sublime quantity and variety, the unleashed mobility and adaptability, and the ubiquitous availability of moving image content in digital computer networks. It thereby aims to catch up theoretically to an everyday media experience that by definition is also a social one. Published in the series INC Network Notebooks, designated to “ground works [sic!] for a future research project”, the short monograph provides some signposts for the gap between theoretical language and a given media practice, but postpones a more patient exploration of this space to a publication yet to come. (more…)