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<nettime> Adrian Lucas: Network-Subject Duality
Geert Lovink on Sat, 1 Jul 2006 07:27:12 +0200 (CEST)


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<nettime> Adrian Lucas: Network-Subject Duality


(This is a short text that Adrian Lucas, a consultant on risk 
aggregation in Zuerich sent me. I thought it was interesting enough to 
forward it to nettime. Adrian gave permission to send it to the list. 
Geert)

Network-Subject Duality
By Adrian Lucas

What the wave-particle duality is to physics (2 alternative ways of 
reading physical phenomena), network-subject duality is to society?

Unfortunately, networks are rarely thought of as wave-like (using terms 
of light: interference, diffraction, etc) except perhaps by Deleuze, 
instead networks are conventionally imagined as many-particle systems; 
i.e. if you ask someone in the street what a network is, they will 
probably give you a 'particle-like' view, and say it's a number of 
subject-nodes connected by links between them. It's very difficult for 
us to exit the subject-centric view; similarly scientists find it very 
difficult to exit a particle-centric view of physics or biology 
(biologists try it with their discourses on 'holism', but how many are 
up to the challenge?). Subjects and networks are possibly neither real 
nor true, but they are 2 very effective, and complementary, ways of 
reading, of trying to make sense of, societal phenomena.

Is there a third paradigmatic way of reading societal phenomena? I 
would argue that Marxist thinking is subject-centric (proletariat as 
revolutionary subject), and in that sense Marxism is like classical 
economics, just upside down, the view from those who realise that they 
are exploited (as I say "Exploitation makes the world go round"). I 
don't know of a third paradigm for reading society, and since the 
subject-centric view (despite Barthes, Deleuze, Foucault) is still so 
dominant, I do think network-centric readings are very necessary, and 
extremely difficult (because we keep falling back into many-subject 
mode..).

I would also differentiate art and culture, and say that art is 
subject-centric, whereas culture is network-like. "Network cultures" is 
not an oxymoron but a tautology; "culture is always network-like", 
"culture is network". Art is completely implicated in the 
subject-centric paradigm of classical economics and communism, the only 
difference between the two is that the official art of communism is an 
art of a many-subject body. What the Soviet dissidents did was not so 
much art as culture, but after the dissolution of Sovietism, and 
therefore of dissidism, that network culture was labelled Moscow 
conceptualists, and it was particularized and individualized, 
privatized. That's an interesting thing; culture can always be 
(afterwards, when the network sustaining culture implodes) 
particularized, individualized, subjectified.


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