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last week I read
Let’s begin with Katharine Viner of The Guardian.
it isn’t a thing because it is temporal more than spatial
This network is not a thing, it is an event, something that has not ﬁxed form,
centre, authority, or agency in control.
Yet it has an understandable shape, protocols (social and technical), is the
largest communicative revolution in the history of the planet, costs us virtually
nothing to use, lets all of us contribute our individual expertise and knowledge,
and disrupts, fundamentally, traditional (“heritage” media industries).
This subject is not about digital media as that is now a trivial tautology.
Ms Viner could have been describing this subject
Katharine Viner again
the network is disruptive
we learn by doing
this has been ‘experiential’ learning
the problem has been what ‘is’ the network? not “what does it mean?”
the trajectory — learning
Learning as a double loop so that our assumptions are what need to be
recognised and reworked (the network needs us to rethink our assumptions,
what used to work no longer will).
the trajectory — speculation
What happens if we take a key idea or concept from now, and apply it
rigourously to think about what might be? (Looking backwards at what was
(‘once upon a time’) only gets you so far in thinking about what is, and what
might be, it is also not a productive way to build and think the new.)
the trajectory — hypertext
Hypertext is a writing technology that is about breaking text into smaller,
standalone sections (lexias or nodes) and then having multiple connections and
pathways through these. It changes how we write, and the sorts of things that
can be written. It is used for ﬁction and nonﬁction, including academic writing.
(We are deeply immersed in print so this is a straightforward way to introduce
disruption and change, as what a text, reader and writer is in hypertext are all
different (and odd) compared to our assumptions from the high, late, age of
the trajectory — networks
These networks (like a hypertext work) are scale free, dense nodes emerge that
make it easy to get from any node to any other, and a describable and
understandable structure emerges because some nodes become more
connected than others. (Hypertext works like this. Blogs and wikis work like this.
The internet works like this. Here you build then tweak, you let structure emerge,
you plan and enable for connection which is what lets structure happen. This is
the opposite of building a house, an industrial company, a hierarchical
the trajectory — protocol
These networks are about communication between peers. They are ﬂat
(anything can talk to anything if you follow the protocols). Protocols are technical
(so anyone can write software and services that can use them) and social. They
are manners for machines and people. (Understanding that it relies on protocols
that don’t come from head ofﬁce means you don’t need permission to do,
participate, engage, but you do need to learn the ‘rules of the game’. These rules
are technical and social. In addition, as protocols, they are documented, and
the trajectory — databases
A database is how we store lists of things. Your blog is a database (and your
posts are just lists). With a database and a screen how we see and experience
things can always vary. Nothing is ﬁxed. There is no preferred or required order.
This makes it easy to ﬁnd things, show different things next to each other — a
Google map showing where events in a story happened next to audio from the
location. (Stories have an order. They have the order of the events they narrate,
and the order of their telling. These can vary, but they are machines for cause
and effect sequences. Databases separate content from presentation, and do
not have to use or rely on cause and effect and so let other sorts of cultural
narratives be made. We are still inventing and discovering what these could,
might, and should be.)
the trajectory — Actor Network Theory
Everything is part of a network and everything that is a part of a network is a part
of network because it participates and is this network. The things that make up
networks are not deﬁned or constrained by scale (size) or type. They are not
deﬁned or constrained by type and so might include human, non human,
cultural, technical, geographical, geological, chemical, sensory (human and
nonhuman), meteorological, and chemical things. They may include an individual
or an entire population (a drop of water in relation to the interior of your phone
and the world’s oceans in relation to global warming). All the things in a network
have the capacity to act, or be acted upon, in that network. (This is a radical
notion of agency — the ability to act — that takes it out of the human — as if
we’re the only things capable of acting and action. This shifts thinking about
networks out of whether it is technical, or cultural, or ideological and gives us a
way of thinking about networks where the ﬁrst thing to do is to describe them, for
themselves, properly. What is any particular network, what is it made of? What
does it do?)
The content of the subject is the experience it has offered. There isn’t a magic
answer. There isn’t one theory to explain them all.
my speculative view:
we are not the centre of anything
we share agency with non–sentient things
meaningful structure always emerges
communicative relationships are at its heart (between parts of a ‘single’ text —
hypertext), between texts (blogs, email, Cowbird), between systems and
services (automating Twitter or Instagram into a blog), between people, and