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<nettime> Re: Organised Networks
Danny Butt on Sun, 25 Apr 2004 20:02:52 +0200 (CEST)


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<nettime> Re: Organised Networks


My thanks to Ned for a typically insightful paper that touches on a 
large number of things I'm interested in (that is, I guess, why we 
share network). A few comments that come to mind, mostly questions I'd 
like to hear comments or leads on.

1) It strikes me that network has become one of those terms (see e.g. 
'innovation', 'radical') that is performing too many duties. I think 
Ned's distinction between "networked organisations" and "organised 
networks" is fair enough, but perhaps it is really trying to indicate 
different  *psychologies* of networking (or communication, connection, 
other words we had before networks). The example of alpha-male 
anarchist organisations Ned mentions is a vivid one. For us as nodes,  
selfconsciously thinking about "networks" raises questions about 
difference, complementarity / similarity / autonomy, Same/Other, 
protocols and negotiation, conflict. From my POV, expectations around 
these issues are the stuff of network sustainability, but they receive 
too little attention in network discourse. Perhaps a serious dose of 
psychoanalytically-inflected feminist theory would be just the thing 
for network theory. Perhaps we should turn our attention to the nodes 
as much as the bandwidth and protocols. As Spivak put it in discussion 
of Marxism , too much theory uses a “post-representationalist 
vocabulary” that hides an essentialist agenda, which is usually an 
unreconstructed version of the imperial human subject. Specificity and 
location offer ways of thinking that through I think.

2) I support Ned's call for attention to strategy, and there are some 
interesting questions that come to mind. Is it possible to pursue 
"relatively autonomous" :7 strategies and tactics, if these modes are 
somewhat opposed, while also pursuing praxis? Maybe it is if we take an 
empirical approach :) to network effects, but consider the network's 
internal functioning as well as the external ones (achievements). Not 
enough organisations (or networks) do internal health checks in my 
view. These are the dialogues like "Where are we going?" "How do we 
feel about our current interactions?" Consulting speak, perhaps, but 
again I'd argue critical questions for network health. They 
specifically raise the issues of commitment. I have a relative who's 
unwell at the moment and one of the things I worry about is that they 
just doesn't seem that committed to living. Yet discussing future plans 
raises this commitment and overall life quality. I've seen networks go 
through similar phases, cycles where there's not much explicit 
commitment, which generates a low-interaction environment where 
commitment falls even further. Networks are best when there's something 
to look forward to, or perhaps, given the large number of networks we 
associate with, a good strategy can boost our participation in networks 
that may not be our default choices for socio-cultural reasons. 
Fibreculture's physical meetings for all listmembers are useful in that 
way.

3) A strategy which will bring in difference, though, generally entails 
getting people to agree to that strategy at an organisational level. So 
there needs to be shared experience, culture, languages, modes. This is 
perhaps the paradox I'm really interested in about networks and groups 
generally.  Some level of organisation can help break the dynamics of 
mimesis. What are the ideal dynamics for ICT-mediated groups which seek 
to link heterogeneous communities? The fibreculture example of a 
facilitation group which couldn't agree on anything, devolved to 
taskforces who don't necessarily know what each other are doing, 
highlight for me the amorphous nature of such organisational forms and 
the difficulty in getting them right. Ironically, (given Ned's 
identification of the network/market link made by education 
bureaucrats) the discussions around corporate governance are probably 
useful (or at least they have been to me). See Corporate Board Member 
magazine's "Emerging Trends  in Corporate Governance" supplement (2002) 
which is online somewhere. There's no one-size-fits all solution, it's 
really a case of getting something which facilitates appropriate 
attention to both strategic and tactical imperatives, and continually 
re-evaluating it. In my experience bureaucracy is really just 
organisation which stops being evaluated, which is usually because it 
suits someone in power. This goes for anarchist collectives as much as 
MNCs.

4) My preferred place to start for a short analysis of "social capital" 
would be Portes, A. (1998). Social capital: its origins and 
applications in modern sociology. Annual Review of Sociology, 24(1), 
1-25.  I like Agre as much as the next person, but like most gringos 
his view of social capital is a little bound up in liberal humanism for 
my tastes.

ka kite

x.d

--
http://www.dannybutt.net

On Apr 22, 2004, at 11:19 PM, Ned Rossiter wrote:

> The Life of Mobile Data: Technology, Mobility and Data Subjectivity
> April 15-16, 2004
> University of Surrey, England
> http://risome.soc.surrey.ac.uk/conference.htm
>
>
> 'Organised Networks Institutionalise to give Mobile Information a
> Strategic Potential'
>
> Ned Rossiter, Centre for Media Research, University of Ulster
> <N.Rossiter {AT} ulster.ac.uk>
 <...>

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