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<nettime> Geert Lovink & Ned Rossiter: Dawn of the Organised Networks [u
Geert Lovink [c] on Wed, 19 Oct 2005 10:39:35 +0200 (CEST)


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<nettime> Geert Lovink & Ned Rossiter: Dawn of the Organised Networks [u]


[from Fibreculture Journal - issue 5,
http://journal.fibreculture.org/issue5/index.html - special issue:
"Multitudes, Creative Organisation and the Precarious Condition of New
Media Labour"]

"Dawn of the Organised Networks"

Geert Lovink & Ned Rossiter

At first glance the concept of "organised networks" appears oxymoronic. In
technical terms, all networks are organised. There are founders, administrators,
moderators and active members who all take up roles. Think also back to the early
work on cybernetics and the "second order" cybernetics of Bateson and others.
Networks consist of mobile relations whose arrangement at any particular time is
shaped by the "constitutive outside" of feedback or noise.[1] The order of
networks is made up of a continuum of relations governed by interests, passions,
affects and pragmatic necessities of different actors. The network of relations is
never static, but this is not to be mistaken for some kind of perpetual fluidity.
Ephemerality is not a condition to celebrate for those wishing to function as
political agents.

Why should networks get organised? Isn't their chaotic, disorganised nature a good
thing that needs to be preserved? Why should the informal atmosphere of a network
be disturbed? Don't worry. Organised networks do not yet exist. The concept
presented here is to be read as a proposal, a draft, in the process of becoming
that needs active steering through disagreement and collective elaboration.[2]
What it doesn't require is instant deconstruction. Everyone can do that. Needless
to say, organised networks have existed for centuries. Just think of the Jesuits.
The history of organised networks can and will be written, but that doesn't
advance our inquiry for now. The networks we are talking about here are specific
in that they are situated within digital media. They can be characterised by their
advanced irrelevance and invisibility for old media and p-in-p (people in power).
General network theory might be useful for enlightenment purposes, but it won't
answer the issues that new media based social networks face. Does it satisfy you
to know that molecules and DNA patterns also network?

There are no networks outside of society. Like all human-techno entities, they are
infected by power. Networks are ideal Foucault machines. They undermine power as
they produce it. Their diagram of power may operate on a range of scales,
traversing intra-local networks and overlapping with trans-national insurgencies.
No matter how harmless they seem, networks ignite differences. Foucault's dictum:
power produces. Translate this over to organised networks and you get the force of
invention.  Indeed, translation is the condition of invention. Mediology, as
defined by R?gis Debray (1996), is the practice of invention within the
social-technical system of networks. As a collaborative method of immanent
critique, mediology assembles a multitude of components upon a network of
relations as they coalesce around situated problems and unleashed passions. In
this sense, the network constantly escapes attempts of command and control. Such
is the entropic variability of networks.

The opposite of organised networks is not chaos. Organised networks routinely
intervene into the radical temporality of today's mediasphere. Short-termism is
the prevailing condition that inflicts governments, corporations, and everyday
life. Psycho-pharmacology is the bio-technical management of this condition (Bifo,
2005). Organised networks offer another possibility - the possibility of
creativity, invention and purpose that is not determined in the first instance by
the creaking, frequently bewildered grasps at maintaining control, as witnessed
across a range of institutions that emerged during the era of the modern state and
persist to this day within the complex of the corporate-state, which continues to
maintain a monopoly on legitimate violence.

Network users do not see their circle of peers as a sect. Users are not political
party members. Quite the opposite. Ties are loose, up to the point of breaking up.
Thus the ontology of the user, in so many ways, mirrors the logic of capital.
Indeed, the "user" is the identity par excellence of capital that seeks to extract
itself from rigid systems of regulation and control. Increasingly the user has
become a term that corresponds with the auto-configuration of self-invention. Some
would say the user is just a consumer: silent and satisfied, until hell breaks
lose.  The user is the identity of control by other means. In this respect, the
user is the empty vessel awaiting the spectral allure of digital commodity
cultures and their promise of "mobility" and "openness". Let us harbour no
fantasies: sociality is intimately bound within the dynamic array of technics
exerted by the force of capital. Networks are everywhere. The challenge for the
foreseeable future is to create new openings, new possibilities, new temporalities
and new spaces within which life may assert its insistence for an ethico-aesthetic
existence.

Notworking is Networking

Organised networks should be read as a proposal aimed to replace the problematic
term virtual community.[3] Organised networks also supersede the level of
individual blogging, whose logic of networks does not correspond with the concept
we develop here. It is with some urgency that internal power relations within
networks are placed on the agenda. Only then can we make a clear break with the
invisible workings of electronic networks that defined the consensus era.
Organised networks are "clouds" of social relationships in which disengagement is
pushed to the limit. Community is an idealistic construct and suggests bonding and
harmony, which often is simply not there. The same could be said of the post-911
call for "trust".

Networks thrive on diversity and conflict (the notworking), not on unity, and this
is what community theorists are unable to reflect upon. For community advocates,
disagreement equals a disruption of the "constructive" flow of dialogue. It takes
effort to reflect on distrust as a productive principle. Indifference between
networks is one of the main reasons not to get organised, so this aspect has to be
taken seriously. Interaction and involvement are idealistic constructs. What
organised networks also do is question the presumed innocence of the chattering
and gossiping networks. Networks are not the opposite of organisations in the same
way as the real is not opposed to the virtual. Instead, we should analyse networks
as an emerging social and cultural form. Networks are "precarious" and this
vulnerability should be seen as both its strength and its weakness.

In the information society passivity rules. Browsing, watching, reading, waiting,
thinking, deleting, chatting, skipping and surfing are the default conditions of
online life. Total involvement implies madness to the highest degree. What
characterises networks is a shared sense of a potentiality that does not have to
be realised. Millions of replies from all to all would cause every network, no
matter what its architecture, to implode. Within every network there are prolonged
periods of interpassivity, interrupted by outbursts of interactivity. Networks
foster and reproduce loose relationships - and it's better to face this fact
straight in the eye. They are hedonistic machines of promiscuous contacts.
Networked multitudes create temporary and voluntary forms of collaboration that
transcend but do not necessary disrupt the Age of Disengagement.

The concept of organised networks is useful to enlist for strategic purposes.
After a decade of "tactical media" the time has come to scale up the operations of
radical media practices. We should all well and truly have emerged from the
retro-fantasy of the benevolent welfare state. Networks will never be rewarded and
"embedded" in well funded structures. Just as the modernist avant-garde saw itself
punctuating the fringes of society, so have tactical media taken comfort in the
idea of targeted micro interventions. Tactical media too often assume to reproduce
the curious spatio-temporal dynamic and structural logic of the modern state and
industrial capital: difference and renewal from the peripheries. But there's a
paradox at work here. Disruptive as their actions may often be, tactical media
corroborate the temporal mode of post-Fordist capital: short-termism.

It is retrograde that tactical media in a post-Fordist era continue to operate in
terms of ephemerality and the logic of "tactics". Since the punctuated attack
model is the dominant condition, tactical media has an affinity with that which it
seeks to oppose. This is why tactical media are treated with a kind of benign
tolerance. There is a neurotic tendency to disappear. Anything that solidifies is
lost in the system. The ideal is to be little more than a temporary glitch, a
brief instance of noise or interference. Tactical media set themselves up for
exploitation in the same manner that "modders" do in the game industry: both
dispense with their knowledge of loop holes in the system for free. They point out
the problem, and then run away. Capital is delighted, and thanks the tactical
media outfit or nerd-modder for the home improvement.

The paradigm of neoliberalism is extensive throughout the bio-technical apparatus
of social life. And this situation is immanent to the operation of radical media
cultures, regardless of whether they are willing to admit it. The alarm bells will
only start ringing when tactical media cranks up its operations. And when this
happens, the organised network emerges as the modus operandi. Radical media
projects will then escape the bemused paternalism of the state-as-corporation.

But make no mistake, the emergence of organised networks amounts to an
articulation of info-war. This battle currently revolves around the theme of
"sustainability". It is no accident that sustainability is the meme of the moment,
since it offers the discursive and structural leverage required by neoliberal
governments and institutions wishing to extricate themselves from responsibility
to annoying constituencies. Organised networks are required to invent models of
sustainability that go beyond the latest Plan of Action update, which is only then
inserted into paper shredders of member states and "citizen friendly" businesses.

The empty centre of neoliberalism is sociality. The organised network is part of a
larger scramble to fill that void. The competing interests that surround the World
Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) debates and activities is just one
example. On a more mundane, national level, one only has to cast an eye toward the
new legitimacy granted to the church as a provider of social "services".  Civil
society, in short, is replacing the ground of the social. But the assertion of the
social is underpinned by ongoing antagonisms. The rise of rightwing populism is an
example of how open the empty centre is to a tolerance of fundamentalism.

New Institutional Forms

Organised networks compete with established institutions in terms of branding and
identity building, but it is as sites of knowledge production and concept
development that primarily defines the competitive edge of organised networks.
These days, most bricks and mortar institutions can only subtract value from
networks. They are not merely unwilling but in fact incapable of giving anything
back. Virtual networks are not yet represented in negotiations over budgets,
grants, investments and job hiring. At best they are seen as sources of
inspiration amongst peers. This is where the real potential of virtual networks
lies - they are enhancement engines. When they work well, they can inspire new
expressions, new socialities, new technics.

The organised network is a hybrid formation: part tactical media, part
institutional formation.[4] There are benefits to be obtained from both these
lineages. The clear distinction of the organised network is that its institutional
logic is internal to the socio-technical dimensions of the media of communication.
This means there is no universal formula for how an organised network might invent
its conditions of existence. There will be no "internationalism" for networks.

While we have outlined the background condition of neoliberalism as integral to
the emergence of organised networks, it also has to be said that just as uneven
modernities created vastly different social and national experiences and
formations, from the East to the West, from North to South, so too does capital in
its neoliberal phase manifest in a plurality of ways. The diversity of conditions
attached to free-trade agreements is just one example of the multiple forms of
capital. From the standpoint of analysis, the understanding of capital is always
going to vary according to the range of inputs one defines as constituting the
action of capital. Similarly, no two organised networks will develop in the same
manner, since their conditions of emergence are always internal to the situation
at hand.

Eventually organised networks will be mirrored against the networked organisation.
But we're not there yet. There will not be an easy synthesis. Roughly speaking,
one can witness a "convergence" between the informality of virtual networks and
the formality of institutions. This process, however, is anything but harmonious.
Clashes between networks and organisations are occurring before our very eyes.
Disputes condition and are internal to the creation of new institutional forms.
Debris spreads in every possible direction, depending on the locality. The
networked multitude, one could say, is constituted - and crushed - as a part of
this process. In this sense, a new political subject is required, one that emerges
out of the current state of disorganisation that defines the multitude. It is
na?ve to believe that, under the current circumstances, networks will win this
battle (if you want to put it in those terms). This is precisely why networks need
their own form of organisation. In this process they will have to deal with the
following three aspects: accountability, sustainability and scalability.

Let's start with the question of who networks represent, or if indeed they hold
such a capacity, and what form of internal democracy they envision. Formal
networks have members but most online initiatives don't. Let's face it. Networks
disintegrate traditional forms of representation. This is what makes the question
'Did blogs affect the 2004 US-election?' so irrelevant. The blogosphere, at best,
influenced a hand-full of TV and newspaper editors. Instead of spreading the word,
the Net has questioned authority - any authority - and therefore was not useful to
push this or that candidate up the rating-scale of electoral appeal. Networks that
thrive higher up will eventually fail because they will be incorporated and thus
degenerate into the capitalist mainstream. No matter what you think of Derrida,
networks do not deconstruct society. It is deep linkage that matters, not some
symbolic coup d'?tat. If there is an aim, it would be to parallel hegemony, which
can only be achieved if underlying premises are constantly put under scrutiny by
the initiators of the next techno-social wave of innovations.

The rise of "community informatics" as a field of research and project building
could be seen as an exemplary platform that could deal with the issues treated
here.[5] Yet for all the interest community informatics has in building projects
"from below", a substantial amount of research within this field is directed
toward "e-democracy" issues. It is time to abandon the illusion that the myths of
representational democracy might somehow be transferred and realised within
networked settings. That is not going to happen. After all, the people benefiting
from such endeavours as the World Summit of the Information Society are, for the
most part, those on the speaking and funding circuits, not people who are
supposedly represented in such a process. Networks call for a new logics of
politics, one based not just on a handpicked collection of NGOs that have
identified themselves as "global civil society".

Networks are not institutions of representative democracy, despite the frequency
with which they are expected to model themselves on such failed institutions.
Instead, there is a search for "non-representational democratic" models of
decision making that avoid classical models of representation and related identity
politics. The emerging theme of non-representative democracies places an emphasis
on process over its after-effect, consensus. Certainly, there's something
attractive in process-oriented forms of governance. But ultimately the process
model is about as sustainable as an earthworks sculpture burrowed into a patch of
dirt called the 1970s. Process is fine as far as it integrates a plurality of
forces into the network. But the primary questions remain: Where does it go? How
long does it last? Why do it in the first place? But also: who is speaking? And:
why bother? A focus on the vital forces that constitute socio-technical life is
thus required. Herein lie the variability and wildcards of organised networks. The
persistence of dispute and disagreement can be taken as a given. Rational
consensus models of democracy have proven, in their failure, that such underlying
conditions of social-political life cannot be eradicated.

Money Matters

Organised networks have to be concerned with their own sustainability. Networks
are not hypes. We've passed the nineties and that potlatch era will not return.
Networks may look temporary but are here to stay, despite their constant
transformations. Individual cells might die off sooner rather than later but there
is a Will to Contextualise that is hard to suppress. Links may be dead at some
point but that's not the end of the data itself. Nonetheless networks are
extremely fragile. This may all sound obvious, but let's not forget that
pragmatism is built upon the passions, joys and thrills of invention. Something
will be invented to bridge time and this something we might call the organised
network. Time has come for cautious planning. There is a self-destructive tendency
of networks faced with the challenge of organisation. Organised networks have to
feel confident about defining their value systems in ways meaningful and relevant
to the internal operations of their social-technical complex. That's actually not
so difficult. The danger is ghettoisation. The trick is to work out a
collaborative value system able to deal with issues such as funding, internal
power plays and the demand for "accountability" and "transparency" as they scale
up their operations.

So let's get monetary. Organised networks first and foremost have to keep their
virtual house in order. It is of strategic importance to use a non-profit provider
(ISP) and have backups made, or even run a mirror in another country. Also, it is
wise not to make use of commercial services such as Yahoo!Groups, Hotmail,
Geocities or Google, as they are unreliable and suffer from regular security
breaches. Be aware of costs for the domain names, e-mail addresses, storage and
bandwidth, even if they are relatively small. Often conflicts arise because
passwords and ownership of the domain name are in the hands of one person that is
leaving the group in a conflict situation. This can literally mean the end of the
project.

Networks are never 100 per cent virtual and always connected at some point with
the monetary economy, which, in case we've forgotten, is in so many ways a
material culture. This is where the story of organised networks start. Perhaps
incorporation is necessary. If you do not want to bother the network with legal
matters, keep in mind what the costs of not going there will be. Funding for
online activities, meetings, editorial work, coding, design, research or
publications can of course be channelled through allied institutions. Remember
that the more online activities you unfold, the more likely it is that you will
have to pay for a network administrator.

The inward looking free software world only uses its paradise-like voluntary work
rules for its own coding projects. Cultural, artistic and activist projects do not
fall under this category, no matter how politically correct they might be. The
same counts for content editors and web designers. Ideally, online projects are
high on communitarian spirits and are able to access the necessary skills. But the
further we leave behind the moment of initiation, the more likely it will be that
work will have to be paid. Organised networks have to face this economic reality
or find themselves marginalised, no matter how advanced their dialogues and
network use might be. Talk about the rise of "immaterial labour" and "precarious
work" is useful, but could run out of steam as it remains incapable of making the
jump from speculative reflection to a political agenda that will outline how
networks can be funded over time.

Organised networks are always going to face great difficulty in raising financial
resources through the traditional monetary system. It is not easy to attract
funding from any of the traditional sectors of government, private philanthropy or
business. Alternatives need to be created. Arguably, the greatest asset of
organised networks consists of what they do: exchanging information and conducting
debates on mailing lists; running public education programs and archiving
education resources; open publishing of magazines, journals and books; organising
workshops, meetings, exhibitions and conferences; providing an infrastructure that
lends itself to rapid connections and collaborations amongst participants and
potential partners; hosting individual web sites, wikis and blogs, etc.

All of these activities can be understood as media of communication and exchange.
This quality lends itself to translation into what Bernard Lietaer - co-designer
of the Euro and researcher of "complementary currencies" - defines as currency in
its multiple uses and forms: 'an agreement within a community to use something as
a medium of exchange' (Dykema and Lietaer, 2003). Lietaer says there are over 4000
forms of complementary currencies worldwide, from the customer loyalty systems of
frequent flyer memberships to community development currencies in Bali. The LETS
system is perhaps one of the better known alternative forms of complementary
currency for those in the West.

In Japan, credit-for-care tickets can be accumulated for services not supported by
the national health insurance system. Credits can then be used to pay for
university tuition fees, or they may be transferred to another family member who
is in need of domestic assistance. Lietaer makes reference to a survey in which
elderly people in Japan preferred care services paid for with "fureai kippu"
(caring relationship tickets) over services paid for in yen. Such a form of
affective labour addresses many of the problems and difficulties faced by aging
populations.

The primary difference between conventional and complementary currencies rests on
the different regimes of value inscribed upon the mode of labour and the logic of
exchange. Lietaer: 'Conventional currencies are built to create competition, and
complementary currencies are built to create cooperation and community...'. The
tension between multiple currency systems constitutes a form of mixed economies,
and mitigates any tendency to get washed away by the euphoria of feel-good
complementarity.

If there is a decision to be made, and an enemy to be singled out, it's the
techno-libertarian religion of the "free". It's high time to openly attack the
cynical logic of do-good venture capitalists that preach giving away content for
no money while making millions of dollars in the back room with software, hardware
and telco-infrastructure, which the masses of amateur idiots need in order to give
and take for free. Organised networks are wary of the gurus on high consultancy
fees who "inspire" others that they should make a living out of selling t-shirts:
'You poor bugger, fool around with your funky free content, while we make the
money with the requirements'. It is time to unveil this logic and publicly resist
it. Knowing is not enough.

The key point of networks is not so much their form of organisation but the fact
that the business model has been on the agenda. The networked organisation,
however, is setting the terms for entry into economic sustainability. Whereas the
precursors to the organised network - lists, collaborative blogs, alternative
media, etc. - are used to being on the vanguard of inquiry and practice, at the
same time there is an undeniable distrust towards the networked organisations. 
For too long the ghetto of list cultures has resulted in a self-affirmation that
is now a major obstacle to the possibility to scalability. What is required for
the organised network to scale up? A transparency of formalisation and shift in
the division of labour? It is well known that formal networked organisations are
the darlings of funding bodies, whereas real existing networks miss out because
they fail to undertake the proper lobby work and cannot adequately represent
themselves. It is ironic that it is exactly the global nature of networks that
makes it next to impossible to fund them. There are no global funds for global
networks - despite all the nineties rhetoric.

Scalar Relations

Let's turn, now, to perhaps the least investigated aspect of scalability. Why is
it so difficult for networks to scale up? There seems to be a tendency to split up
in a thousand micro conversations. This also counts for the "social software"
blogs like Orkut, Friendster and LinkIn, in which millions from all over the globe
participate. For the time being it is only the geeky Slashdot that manages to
centralise conversations amongst the tens of thousands of its online users.
Electronic mailing lists do not seem to get above a few thousand before the
conversation actually slows down, heavily moderated as it often is. The ideal size
for an in-depth, open discussion still seems to be somewhere between 50 and 500
participants. What does this mean for the networked multitudes? To what extent is
this all a software issue?[6] Could the necessary protocols be written up by
women? Well, of course, but what protocols would be adopted in such a case? Can we
imagine very large-scale conversations that do not only make sense but also have
an impact? What network cultures can become large transformative institutions?

Perhaps organised networks will always remain virtual. This option should never be
dropped. There is no secret plan to institutionalise in the brick and mortar
world. Maybe organised networks cannot work in collaboration with existing
institutional structures. If so, how might the virtual be formalised? By this we
don't mean formalisation in the old sense whereby the network takes on a
hierarchical structure made up of a director, an elected secretariat, and so
forth. Such a model was adopted by the grassroots movements of the 60s and 70s,
and is now the primary reason why such entities are unable to deal with the
demands and realities of networked sociality. Against this mode of formalisation,
how might informality acquire an organised response to the unpredictability of
needs and crisis and the rhythms of global capital?

As unstable as this model may sound, perhaps it is the form best suited to the
habitus of networks, as we've sketched out above. It is necessary, after all, to
identify the characteristics, tendencies and limits - that's to say, the short
history - of the network, and develop a plan from there. There's no point assuming
that established patterns of communication and practice can somehow be evaporated
and entirely new projects started afresh. To do so would mean the invention of a
new network, and that would mean undertaking that time-consuming work of defining
practices and protocols through experimentation, trial and error. By all means,
let's see new networks emerge - they will in any case.  But the solution is not to
abandon the hard labour, accumulated resources, and curious network personas - or
brand, if you like - that have already been cultivated. Let's take the next step.

While it seems that we're forever in some perpetual crisis and phase of
transition, now really is the time for the organised network to establish the
ground upon which new politics, new economies, and new cultures may emerge within
the dynamics of the social-technical system. In this way, the network opens up to
an entirely new range of external variables that in turn function to transform the
internal operation of the network. Such is the work of the constitutive outside -
a process of post-negativity in which rupture and antagonism affirms the future
life of the network. The tension between internal dynamics and external forces
comprise a new ground of "the political".

Radical democracy theorists are still so slow and far away from recognising this
new field of techno-sociality. Where they posit a negation of social antagonisms
within ideologies such as the Third Way, and thus identify the disintegration of
liberal democratic principles, the emergence of organised networks, by contrast,
are constituted precisely in this denial of antagonisms by the culture of liberal
democracy. The institutional structures of liberal democracy have become
disconnected from the field of sociality, and in so doing are unable to address
the antagonisms of the political. Antagonisms do not evacuate the scene so much as
take flight into new terrains of communication. The organised network is open to
the antagonisms that comprise social-technical relations. For this reason, it is
urgent that organised networks confront the demands of scale and sustainability in
order to create new institutional horizons within which conflicts find a space of
expression and a capacity for invention.

Accompanying such a transformation is the recognition of power structures and the
fact that organised networks will always be shut out of them. There are also
internal informal power structures - a recognition of which is the first step
towards transparency. Too often the denial of existing structures prevents a
discussion of how new forms of organisation could emerge. The prevailing
assumption of decentralisation shuts down debate and imagination of how things
could be done differently. Moreover, it reproduces the absolute power of the
geeks. For them, it's not an issue because they can safely continue their
engineering class without having to confront the urgency of translation that
accompanies networks seeking to deal with the turmoil of new socialities.

Similarly, the structures that call themselves networks deny how centralised they
are. Here, we are thinking of the proliferation of "research networks" within
universities. There is an amazing confusion about what networks are within these
settings. In many ways, such obfuscation is quite deliberate: since the
institution of the university - a networked organisation - is beyond repair and
unable to deal with the complexities of an informatised society, it is no wonder
that we see this latest attempt at window dressing. There is a bizarre assumption
that if governments and funding bodies throw money at projects that demonstrate a
correspondence with networks - whatever that might mean - then, by some peculiar
magical process, "innovation" (another quite meaningless term) will emerge. And
what do you know, the procedure for submitting proposals, developing research
partners, justifying budgets, outlining time schedules, undertaking research, and
so on and so forth is exactly the same as the previous year of harvesting. The
result: the existing elites are rewarded, and power is consolidated through the
much more accurate model of the "cluster" (a rather ugly word that finds its
birthplace in the school playground). There is no chance for these so-called
networks to encounter infection. Quarantined inquiry is what these research
networks are all about. Why? Because there is a complete failure to engage the
technics of communications media in the first instance, to say nothing of the
dependency model of funding which simply functions to reproduce the same.

Libertarian Legacies

Organised networks have their own problems to confront. Because of the lack of
transparency about who is in charge of operations and project development, they
are considerably slowed down. This is also a question of software architecture -
the fact that we can't vote every month for who is the moderator for the month.
There's no technical reason why we don't have this. Rather, it points again to the
culture of networks - these can change fast in terms of applications, but not in
terms of ideologies. To illustrate these issues, we'll turn now to a discussion of
blogs, wikis and Creative Commons.

The blog is another technology of networks, one whose logic is that of the link.
The link enhances visibility through a ranking system. This is how the blogger
tackles the question of scale. But the question of scale cannot be reduced to one
of scarcity. The technics of the blog don't add up to what we're calling organised
networks. The blogger does not have infinite possibility but is governed by a
moment of decision. This does not arise out of scarcity, since there is the
ability of machines to read other machines. Rather, there are limits that arise
out of the attention economy and out of affinity: I share your culture, I don't
share you culture; I like you, I don't like you. Here we see a new cartography of
power that is peculiar to a symbolic economy of networks.

Quite importantly, the decisionism of the link constitutes a new field of the
political. This is where schizo-production comes to an end. The na?ve 90s
Deleuzomania would say everything connects with everything. Technically speaking
there's no reason why you can't included all the links of the world - this is what
the Internet Archive does. The blog, however, is unable to do this - not due to a
lack of space, since space is endlessly extensive through the logic of the link.
Nor is this really an issue of resources. Instead, it is an issue that attends the
enclave culture of blogs. They are zones of affinity with their own protectionist
policies. If you're high up on the blog-scale of desirable association, the
political is articulated by the endless requests for linkage. These cannot all be
met, however, and resentment if not enemies are born. The enemy is always kept on
the outside. They remain invisible. As such, the blog is closed to change. Blogs
can thus be understood as incestuous networks of auto-reproduction.

Since organised networks comprise new institutional forms whose relations are
immanent to the media of communication, we can say that ultimately the blog does
not correspond with the organised network. The outside for organised networks
always plays a constitutive role in determining the direction, shape and actions
of the network. This is not the case for the blog, where the enemy is never
present, never visible, since the network of the blog is the link, and the link is
the friend.

Having said this, why is the blog visible in the mainstream media in a way that
the organised network is not? Blogging started as a commentary on the mainstream
media: TV, newspapers and their websites. At a discursive level the blog was
operating internally to mainstream media. In a genealogical sense the blog was
part of the news industry. The main controversy within the news industry has been
whether or not bloggers can be considered as qualified journalists. This is part
of a broader problem of categorisation of the blogger: they are not poets,
writers, scholars, etc. Nowadays, the blogger has become a profession with a
professional code of ethics and job description, yet they are still working in
conditions we associate with post-Fordist flexible labour. Paradoxically, then,
the blogger is currently expunged and questioned by the networked organisation.

The deep necessity or precondition of the blogger is not so much their networking
capacity, since they are performing the self. Networking is secondary. But if you
had a blogger who is self-performing without linking, they would remain invisible.
Without the link you are non-existent. Thus their self-performance is identical to
linking. However, there is a difference between networking and linking. There is a
strong social network amongst bloggers, one that is highly intimate and highly
disclosing of personal details. In that sense we can see a correspondence between
the blog and reality television - the latter, of course, is pretty much completely
opposite to the logic of networks. So in terms of remediation, to what extent does
this anti-networking character of reality TV carry over to blogs?

This is where we need to readdress the idea of the political. As we have noted,
with the blog, the political corresponds with the moment of linking, which is
technically facilitated by the software, how it works, and the decisions that need
to be made. Just as the blog is a self-performance, so too is the instantiation of
the political. Both are an invisible undertaking. The fact that I do NOT link to
you remains invisible. The unanswered email is the most significant one. So while
the blog has some characteristics of the network, it is not open, it cannot
change, because it closes itself to the potential for change and intervention.
With the blog, you can comment but you cannot post. Your comments might even be
taken down.

The blog, along with other social networks such as Friendster, Orkut and so forth,
is finally characterised in terms of the software that refuses antagonisms. The
early version of Orkut had a software interface that cut straight to the issue:
'Are you my friend? Yes/No'. Only very few have the courage to tell someone
straight in the face: 'No'. Seriously, what choice is there here, except to create
an inflation of friends? We all want them. We find ourselves back to the 17 stages
of joy. Nirvanaland. This is New Age revivalism at work, desperately insecure, and
in search of a "friend".

The wiki offers another example of organised networks with its own specific
social-technical characteristics. Here a collective intelligence is created,
produced as a resource immanent to the media form. Yet it's important to
understand that the wiki model will not work in all cultures and countries. The
wiki is specific. It is a collaborative operation. You can have as many ideas as
you want but this doesn't mean they will translate into a resource. The technical
facilities on their own will not explain the story. Japanese and Chinese cultures,
for example, do not like full visibility: to be seen, heard, or read. Why would
they collaborate on these projects? Then think of the political histories of
countries. The wiki presumes there is a willingness to work in the public and
share knowledge. These are not universal values or aspirations.

The key to networks is the tension between open and closed systems of
communication, ideas and action. For the most part, e-democracy folk are
unreconstructed techno-libertarians. The Creative Commons movement is also caught
up in this persona, as if it's still 1999. Increasingly, we are seeing advocates
of the Creative Commons license claiming they are "not political", as if this
gesture will somehow enamour them to old-style institutions and publishing
industries they are seeking to coax over to the other side. There is a na?ve
assumption that if Creative Commons can dissociate itself from leftist movements
in particular, then they will have greater success in promoting Creative Commons
as a dominant alternative to the strictures of IP regimes. There is, however, no
escape from politics, and the libertarian ethos of Lessig and his cohorts would do
well to be more clear about this.

The rhetoric of openness, shared by advocates of Creative Commons and
libertarians, has purchase on governments who also trade in political populism.
Yet it disguises the political motivations and economic interests at work in these
projects. The libertarian geek elite has so far effectively stopped networks from
mobilising their own financial resources. Most famously, there is the inability of
networks to effectively work with micro-payment systems in the form of membership
fees, software, etc. The libertarian geek option gives you one option: you give
everything away for nothing and we'll take the money. Academic databases are an
exception, where content (business data, reports, articles, etc.) can be accessed
for substantial subscription fees. Institutions are fine with this arrangement,
and don't seem too concerned about subsidising these information services and
publishing industries. The telcos also do okay - it's the poor hackers, activists,
artists and amateur intellectuals that get burnt.

The provocation of organised networks is to unveil these mechanisms of control and
contradiction, to discuss the power of money flows, and to redirect funds. The
organised network struggles with its own informality. This isn't a case of wanting
a piece of the pie - organised networks don't even get a taste. No, organised
networks want the whole bloody bakery! They are not examples for the network
economy. Even in the case of Creative Commons, which do have a beta model of
redistributing finance, this in fact is incredibly retrograde since it multiplies
the necessity of intermediaries - a function eradicated in post-Fordist economies.
You cannot earn money from content, only provide services around it. In this 90s
model of an information economy, the thing itself borders on being an untouchable
sacred object, despite its banality. Again: the organised network has to break
with the "information must be free" logic in order to move towards sustainability.

Angel Investors

The libertarian ideology hides its own mechanisms of making money. Libertarian
open source movements are no different at the level of structure, organisation and
financing from the monopoly of corporations involved in video game production.
Tactically they focus on the right to remix, the basis of all creativity. Sure,
this is nice. It goes back to the idea that all culture is distilled from a basic,
common source. Organised networks wish to undertake projects, and to do this
requires resources and financing beyond simply a capacity to mix code. In this
sense, there is a parallel here to organised crime, whose aim is to redistribute
stolen resources and property.

Organised crime is involved in translation. In terms of what networks are and
ought to be, this element is consciously excluded in the software architecture and
beyond. The repurposing and redirecting of financial resources appropriated by
organised criminal networks is precisely what enables them to proliferate.
Organised networks have a lot to learn from the creativity of criminal industries
if they wish to address the problem of sustainability (see Gye, 2004). So here's
your "get out of jail free" card: criminal networks can be understood as an
equivalent resource to the 'presence of organised networks of individual angel
investors' (ELF, 2002).

Since organised networks are seemingly in a condition of perpetual exclusion from
conventional, institutional modes of financing, then there is really only one
option left: to leave the network, or alternatively, to understand the logic of
crime. There isn't much to obtain from the open source gurus. At least they have
not totally captured the attention of so-called Internet culture and research.
Instead, they have migrated over to traditional cultural institutions, which now
consider open source as the primary model. This will be an interesting experiment
to observe, since the open source model goes against the border controls of the
traditional institution. Whether such institutions are able fully to embrace the
logic of open distribution and retain both their brand and funding capacity
remains to be seen.

Given that the organised network has no financial basis for its activities, why,
then is accountability an issue here? This, of course, relates back to the
question of transparency, governance and control, and thus the structural dynamics
of networks. This is a matter of making visible the capacities of the network to
undergo transformation precisely due to the way in which accountability reveals
limits. What does accountability mean outside the framework of representation?
What does representation mean within a post-representative political system? How
does it work?

Networks represent themselves and not an external constituency whose interests
require distillation within a party-political form. There is always the temptation
to present networks as constituencies that are somehow obliged to be capable of
articulating the needs and interests of what is by definition, at the
social-technical level, a mutable formation. There is no permanency here. People
come and go according to what holds a passing affinity and interest for them.
This, perhaps above all else, is the primary condition networks must address if
they are to undertake the passage of organisation.

--

Authors' Biographies

Geert Lovink is a Dutch-Australian media theorist and activist. In 2004
he was appointed as research professor/associate professor at
Hogeschool van Amsterdam/Amsterdam University where he founded the
Institute of Network Cultures (www.networkcultures.org). He is
organiser of numerous new media conferences, festivals and (online)
publications and the co-founder of numerous Internet projects such as
Nettime and Fibreculture. He recently published Dark Fiber (2002),
Uncanny Networks (2002), My First Recession (2003) and The Principle of
Notworking (2005).

Ned Rossiter is a senior lecturer at the Centre for Media Research,
University of Ulster and an adjuct research fellow at the Centre for
Cultural Research, University of Western Sydney.

--

Acknowledgements

Thanks to David Teh and Brett Neilson for their comments and editing
suggestions. You both gave us ideas for the next round.

--

Notes

[1] For elaboration on the concept of the "constitutive outside" as it
relates to media theory and the politics of information, see Rossiter
(2004).

[2] See the discussion on the Fibreculture mailing list about list
governance, censorship and organised networks in November/December
2004: www.fibreculture.org, go to: list archive. More recently,
discussions on the Spectre mailing list on media art and culture in
Deep Europe have broached the topic of new institutional forms and
models of organisation in the field of media art.  See the thread on
'ICC and for the media art center of 21C', August 2005: list archive.

[3] See also the introduction and conclusion of Geert Lovink's My First
Recession (2003). The theory of organised networks should be read as a
follow up of this book.

[4] Jeff Juris (2005) describes similar tensions between what he terms
"horizontals" (self-organising activist movements) and "verticals"
(traditional institutions) as they played out across the various Social
Forums in recent years. In reality, all forms of techno-sociality
combine both horizontal and vertical forms of organisation. Our
argument is not so much that a hard distinction separates these modes
of organisation as a degree in scale.

[5] One of the many crossovers between computer science and humanities,
as proposed by Michael Gurstein and others. Some of their texts can be
found at http://www.netzwissenschaft.de/sem/pool.htm.

[6] Here we're thinking of collaborative, peer-to-peer "software
solutions" such as Paper Airplane <http://paperairplane.us> . Thanks to
Soenke Zehle for bringing this site to our attention.

---

References

Bifo (Franco Beradi). 'Biopolitics and Connective Mutation', trans.
Tiziana Terranova and Melinda Cooper, Culture Machine 7 (2005),
http://culturemachine.tees.ac.uk/frm_f1.htm.

Debray R?gis. Media Manifestos: On the Technological Transmission of
Cultural Forms, trans. Eric Raut (London and New York: Verso, 1996).

Dykema, Ravi and Lietaer, Bernard. 'Complementary Currencies for Social
Change: An Interview with Bernard Lietaer', Nexus: Colorado's Holistic
Journal (July-August, 2003),
http://www.nexuspub.com/articles/2003/july2003/interview.htm.

Edward Lowe Foundation (ELF). 'Building Entrepreneurial Communities',
2002, http://edwardlowe.org/pages/documents/building.pdf.

Gye, Lisa. 'POS: Organised Networks', posting to fibreculture mailing
list, 24 November (2004),
http://lists.myspinach.org/pipermail/fibreculture/2004-November/
004237.html.

Juris, Jeffrey S. 'Social Forums and their Margins: Networking Logics
and the Cultural Politics of Autonomous Space', ephemera: theory &
politics in organization 5.2 (2005): 253-272,
http://www.ephemeraweb.org/journal/5-2/5-2juris.pdf.

Lovink, Geert. My First Recession: Critical Internet Culture in
Transition (Rotterdam: V2_/NAi Publishers, 2003).

Rossiter, Ned. 'Creative Industries, Comparative Media Theory, and the
Limits of Critique from Within', Topia: A Canadian Journal of Cultural
Studies 11 (Spring, 2004): 21-48.


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