Benjamin Geer on Wed, 19 Apr 2006 20:40:31 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> Network, Swarm, Microstructure

On 19/04/06, Felix Stalder <> wrote:
> Large projects (think of
> states, armies, major companies etc) tended to be highly structured in order
> to manage scale [...]
> ICTs are enabling (just enabling, not determining) people and organizations to
> handle much, much more information efficiently, hence they still can scale,
> but to not need to accept inflexibility as the trade-off. [...]
> This ability of multiple entities to undertake very large projects, loosely
> coordinated, is what is fuelling the renaissance of notions such as
> "multitude" [...]
> networks create their own geography of closeness and
> distance. They create their own physical environment (think airports, or
> radical community centers, etc.).

While I agree that new kinds of organisations have appeared in which protocols
play a more important role than in the past, I think it would be a mistake to see
them as alternatives to older structures, because in reality they depend
completely on these older structures for their existence.  Internet protocols can
function because "states, armies, major companies, etc." control the land and the
energy resources, produce the hardware, lay the cable, launch the satellites, and
so on, on which the whole network relies.  The same goes for airports.  Thus
networks don't "create their own physical environment"; they exist in an
environment that traditional organisations allow them to use.

Similarly, the financial markets, so often cited as an example of spontaneous,
self-structuring collective behaviour, depend on states to provide a reliable
regulatory environment in which they can operate.  More importantly, they are
ultimately subject to the authority of those states' central banks.  Since banks
do business with central banks only at the latter's pleasure, the US government,
for example, is fully capable of imposing practically any sort of regulations on
the world's financial markets.

If anyone has proposed a theory explaining how a network could control territory
through military power and take over the functions of the state, I'd like to hear
about it.


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