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…)
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…)
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…)
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|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.|