Week 8 – Networks

by

Castells, M. Excerpts from “Informationalism, Networks and the Network Society: A Theoretical Blueprint” From The Network Society: A Cross-cultural Perspective.  Cheltenham, UK, Edward Elgar, pgs. 3-7 & 36-45.

Manual Castells suggests in his article “Informationalism, Networks and the Network Society: A Theoretical Blueprint”, that the concept of networks has become essential to understanding the organisation of contemporary life. Indeed, networks “constitute the fundamental pattern of life”. One of the benefits of the network is in their “ability to introduce new actors and new content to the process of social organization, with relative independence of the power centres, increased over time with technical change and…with the evolution of communication technologies”.

Castells discusses the concepts of “nodes”, which I interpreted as points in a network where information intersects. He also discusses key concepts such as the “space of flows” and “timeless time”. The “space of flows” is not placeless but consists of networks and nodes, “…of places connected by electronically powered communication networks through which flows of information circulate and interact…” In the network society it is not as if there is no time, but rather that connection is immediate. Indeed, as Castells discusses the sequence of time is negated by either compressing time or blurring its sequences “…the space of flows dissolves time by disordering the sequence of events and making them simultaneous, thus installing society in structural ephemerality” or “timeless time”. In the tutorials we discussed the ‘Casino’ as one instance in contemporary society in which it is easy to ‘loose track’ of time.

The other interesting discussion in this article was on the notion of the “hacker ethic”. Castells discusses some of the key issues surrounding the sharing of knowledge and discovery, theorising that “the culture of the network society is a culture of protocols of communication between all cultures of the world, developed on the basis of a common belief in the power of networking and of the synergy obtained by giving to others and receiving from others”. This notion of “sharing” knowledge and resources is highly contentious and one that I find very interesting. In many respects I think it’s impossible to define hacking as either “good” or “bad” but merely a natural consequence of the quest for information and increased autonomy in contemporary networked societies.

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