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					               (net)work+rhizomes

              fdm 20c introduction to digital media
                            lecture 15.04.2003




warren sack / film & digital media department / university of california, santa cruz
last time

•   reading technical texts (latour)
•   positive and negative modalities (latour)
•   who is tim berners-lee?
•   an abbreviated reading of “the world-wide web” by berners-
    lee, et al.
•   what are URIs, universal resource identifiers?
•   what is HTML, the hypertext markup language?
•   what is HTTP, the hypertext transfer protocol?
•   visualizing the web as a collaboratively author hypertext
    and/or technology and also as a heterogeneous network of
    people and machines
    – standards: iso, ietf & the w3c
    – visualizations: mapping the web
outline
  – general idea for today: networks are not just
    technologies; they can also be used as tool for
    understanding sociotechnical systems (i.e., as a
    semiotics)
  – what is the problem latour is trying to address with
    actor-network theory?
  – how can the world be visualized as sets of
    interconnected (actor-)networks?
  – actor-networks
     • some things they are not (only)
     • what are they?
          – as networks/rhizomes?
          – as inconnected actors (i.e., actants)?
  – general questions as actor-network questions
  – a reading of latour’s “clarifications”
general questions
•   what problem does this research address?
•   who is/are the author/s of the text?
•   who funded this research?
•   what is the economics of the work (i.e., who will buy it?, sell it?,
    use it?)
•   who are the “dramatis personae” of the article?
•   othering: who are “we”? who are “they”? what’s a “what” and
    who is a “who”?
•   who is the intended audience?
•   which texts are cited in this text?
•   what is the stated genealogy of the technology?
•   where was the text published?
•   what is “thinking”? what is “reading”? what is “writing”?
•   what narrative strategies are employed in the article?
•   what is the stated motivation of the research?
•   prior to their appearance in this text, who spoke or wrote which
    statements to whom? where? under what conditions?
problem: dichotomy: nature/culture




     nature               culture
problem: dichotomy: technology/society




 technology               society
problem: dichotomy: human/machine




    human              machine
problem: dichotomy: real world/internet




  real world              internet
proposed approach to the problem

• world as network and/or world as rhizome
  – look for attachments between people, between words
    or texts, between machines, between people and
    machines, between texts and machines, between
    people and texts, etc., etc.
the approach: attachments not dichotomies
from bruno latour,
science in action:
how to follow scientists
and engineers through
society (1987)
the actor-network approach

 from bruno latour, science in action: how to follow scientists and
    engineers through society (1987)

 ...picture the following comic strip: we start with a technical sentence
     which is devoid of any trace of fabrication, construction or ownership;
     we then put it in quotation marks, add to this speaking character
     another character to whom it is speaking; then we place all of them in
     a specific situation, somewhere in time and space, surrounded by
     equipment, machines colleagues; then when the controversy heats
     up a bit we look at where the disputing people go and what sort of
     new elements they fetch, recruit or seduce in order to convince their
     colleagues; then, we see how the people being convinced stop
     discussing with one another; situations, localizations, even people
     start being slowly erased; on the last picture we see a new sentence,
     without any quotation marks, written in a text book [or technical
     manual; or piece of software] similar to the one we started with in the
     first picture.
example: text as network as hypertext




                      from geneviéve teil & bruno latour,
                      “the hume machine: can association
                      networks do more than formal rules?”,
                      stanford humanities review,
                      volume 4, issue 2
example: text network 1
example: text network 2
example: text network 3
example: text networks 1 + 2 + 3
example: networks of people
(i.e., social networks)
from “Studying Online
Social Networks”
by Laura Garton,
Caroline Haythornthwaite
and Barry Wellman,
Journal of Computer-
Mediated Communication,
Vol. 3, No. 1., June 1997

social network before the
introduction of a
CMC system
example: networks of people
(i.e., social networks)
from “Studying Online
Social Networks”
by Laura Garton,
Caroline Haythornthwaite
and Barry Wellman,
Journal of Computer-
Mediated Communication,
Vol. 3, No. 1., June 1997

social network
six months after the
 introduction of a
CMC system
example: networks of people and text
(e.g., citation and co-authorship networks)




                                                this image is from the system ReferalWeb
                                                    by Henry Katz et al. at ATT Research
                           http://foraker.research.att.com/refweb/version2/RefWeb.html
example: sociolinguistic networks
from Warren Sack, Conversation Map, www.sims.berkeley.edu/~sack/cm/
example: networks of machines
(i.e, technical networks; e.g., computer networks)
rhizome:sociotechnicalinguisticulturalnetwork

 • deleuze and guatarri on rhizomes:
    – “Let us summarize the principal characteristics of a
      rhizome: unlike trees or their roots, the rhizome
      connects any point to any other point, and its traits
      are not necessarily linked to traits of the same
      nature; it brings into play very different signs, and
      even non-sign states. ...”
actor-networks: they are not (or not only)...

• technical networks: The first mistake would be to give it a common technical
   meaning in the sense of a sewage, or train, or subway, or telephone 'network’. ... A
   technical network in the engineer's sense is only one of the possible final and
   stabilized state of an actor-network.
• social networks: ...actor-network theory (hence ANT) has very little to do with
   the study of social networks. ... Whereas social networks add information on the
   relations of humans in a social and natural world which is left untouched by the
   analysis, ANT aims at accounting for the very essence of societies and natures. It
   does not wish to add social networks to social theory but to rebuild social theory
   out of networks. It is as much an ontology or a metaphysics, as a sociology. Social
   networks will of course be included in the description but they will have no privilege
   nor prominence...
• (anglo-american) “actors”: ... the word actor has been open to the same
   misunderstanding as the word network. 'Actor' in the Anglo-Saxon tradition is
   always a human intentional individual actor and is most often contrasted with mere
   'behavior'. If one adds this definition of an actor to the social definition of a network
   then the bottom of misunderstanding is reached: an individual human -usually
   male- who wishes to grab power makes a network of allies and extend his power --
   doing some 'networking' or 'liaising' as Americans say...
actor-network theory as fusion

“The difficulty of grasping ANT is that it has been made by the fusion of
   three hitherto unrelated strands of preoccupations:
    – a semiotic definition of entity building (cf., “isotopy”);
    – a methodological framework to record the heterogeneity of
       such a building;
    – an ontological claim on the 'networky' character of actants
       themselves.
ANT asserts that the limits of these three unrelated interests are
   solved when, and only when, they are fused together into an
   integrated practice of study.”
actor-network theory: networks

• Actor-Network Theory (ANT) is a change of methaphors to describe
  essences: instead of surfaces one gets filaments (or rhizomes in
  Deleuze's parlance). More precisely it is a change of topology.
  Instead of thinking in terms of surfaces -- two dimensions -- or
  spheres -- three dimensions -- one is asked to think in terms of
  nodes that have as many dimensions as they have connections. As
  a first approximation, ANT claims that modern societies cannot be
  described without recognizing them as having a fibrous, thread-like,
  wiry, stringy, ropy, capillary character that is never captured by the
  notions of levels, layers, territories, spheres, categories, structure,
  systems. It aims at explaining the effects accounted for by those
  traditional words without having to buy the ontology, topology and
  politics that goes with them.
• This is the most counter-intuitive aspect of ANT. Literally there is
  nothing but networks, there is nothing in between them, or, to use a
  metaphor from the history of physics, there is no ether in which the
  networks should be immersed.
actor-network theory: actors (actants)

• ANT makes use of some of the simplest properties of nets and then
  add to it an actor that does some work; the addition of such an
  ontological ingredient deeply modifies it. ... A network in
  mathematics or in engineering is something that is traced or
  inscribed by some other entity -- the mathematician, the engineer.
  An actor-network is an entity that does the tracing and the
  inscribing. It is an ontological definition and not a piece of inert
  matter in the hands of others, especially of human planners or
  designers. It is in order to point out this essential feature that the
  word 'actor' was added to it.
actor-network theory: actors (actants)

• “An 'actor' in ANT is a semiotic definition -- an actant --, that is,
  something that acts or to which activity is granted by others. It
  implies no special motivation of human individual actors, nor of
  humans in general. An actant can literally be anything provided it is
  granted to be the source of an action.”
    – cf., the narrative theory and semiotics of Greimas on “actants” and
      “isotopies”
• “...actors are not conceived as fixed entities but as flows, as
  circulating objects, undergoing trials, and their stability, continuity,
  isotopies has to be obtained by other actions and other trials.”
actor-network theory: actors (actants)

• Building on the semiotic turn, ANT first brackets out society and
  nature to consider only meaning-productions; then breaking with the
  limits of semiotics without losing its tool box, it grants activity to the
  semiotic actors turning them into a new ontological hybrid, world
  making entities; by doing such a counter-copernican revolution it
  builds a completely empty frame for describing how any entity builds
  its world; finally, it retains from the descriptive project only a very few
  terms -its infralanguage- which are just enough to sail in between
  frames of reference and grants back to the actors themselves the
  ability to build precise accounts of one another by the very way they
  behave; the goal building of an overarching explanation -- that is, for
  ANT, a centre of calculation that would hold or replace or
  punctualise all the others -- is displaced by the search for ex-
  plicitations [cf., Deleuze] that is for the deployment of as many
  elements as possible accounted for through as many
  metalanguages as possible.
general questions as actor-network questions
 • who is/are the author/s of the text?
     – links between people, texts, and institutions; e.g., universities,
       companies, etc.
 • who funded this research?
     – links between institutions
 • what is the economics of the work
     – capital flows between institions and individuals
 • who are the “dramatis personae” of the article?
     – types of actants and their associations and/or “isotopies”
 • othering: who are “we”? who are “they”? what’s a “what” and
   who is a “who”?
     – attachments and divisions between actants; attributions of agency
       to some actants (e.g., humans) and not to others (e.g., machines)
 • what problem does this research address?
     – connections between problems; e.g., described causal links
general questions as actor-network questions
 • who is the intended audience?
     – oftentimes can be answered by examining where the text published;
       e.g., scientific journal, popular magazine, etc. examine the links
       between publications
 • which texts are cited in this text?
     – citation links: sociotextual links
 • what is the stated genealogy of the technology?
     – technical networks: which machines are (or are proposed to be)
       coupled together?
 • what is “thinking”? what is “reading”? what is “writing”?
     – thinking, reading, writing as means of attaching actants together
 • what narrative strategies are employed in the article?
     – what kinds of actants exist in the work? how do they remain stable
       or change over time (cf., their respective isotopies). the longer
       answer to this question is that the semiotics used by actor-network
       theorists (i.e., that of greimas) has been used for decades to study
       narratives of many different kinds.
 • what is the stated motivation of the research?
     – linking a central statement to the other statements of fact and
       discovery
general questions as actor network questions

 • prior to their appearance in this text,
   who spoke or wrote which statements to whom?
   where? under what conditions?

 • in this text,
   who spoke or wrote which statements to whom?
   where? under what conditions?

 • after their appearance in this text,
   who spoke or (re)wrote which statements to whom?
   where? under what conditions?
questions: “a few clarifications”
     • who is the author?
         – Bruno Latour, born in 1947 in Beaune, Burgundy, from a wine grower
           family, was trained first as a philosopher and then an anthropologist.
           After field studies in Africa and California he specialized in the analysis
           of scientists and engineers at work. In addition to work in philosophy,
           history, sociology and anthropology of science, he has collaborated into
           many studies in science policy and research management.
         – Professor at the ENSMP/CSI; visiting professor in the history of science
           at Harvard; visiting professor at the London School of Economics
     • what is the stated motivation of the work?
         – “...to list some of the interesting properties of networks and to explain
           some of the misunderstandings that have arisen”
     • what problem does this research address?
         – articulating a methodology for science and technology studies
     • who funded this research?
         – see the website for the ENSMP/CSI: http://www.csi-mines.org/; see
           especially the list of projects: http://www.csi-mines.org/B3/index.html;
           under each project is a list of sponsors or partners for the project; many
           are governmental; corporate; and arts institutions.
questions (continued): “a few clarifications”
    • what is the economics of the work?
        – some of the work is advisory, some is curatorial. this particular posting
          -- sent to nettime -- must be seen in light of the fact that (a) latour is
          anthropologist of science, but he is also a curator (his last show was at
          the German ZKM); and, (b) his work is widely read by artists and art
          students (see the recent collection edited for the French national art
          schools (ENBA) instruction in digital media: Connexions: Art, réseaux,
          media, Annick Bureaud, Nathalie Magnan (editors)
    • what is the stated genealogy of the work?
        – see especially the work of Serres (philosophy and science
          studies), Greimas (semiotics), Deleuze (philosophy), Callon
          (science studies), Garfinkel (ethnomethodology), Prigogine and
          Stengers (mathematics and science studies), Foucault
          (philosophy), Lynch (science studies), other colleagues
          contributing to ANT
    • who is the intended audience?
        – artists, theorists, critics
questions (continued): “a few clarifications”

    • who are the “dramatis personae” of the article?
        – the theorist and the researcher; but, in general, this article
          problematizes the notion of a “personae” by introducing the
          idea that artifacts, machines and other non-human entities
          might be understood as possessing or exhbiting agency
    • what narrative strategies are employed in the article?
        – primarily expository
    • othering: who are “we”? who are “they”?
        – this is one of the main issues of the article: looking for
          (de)couplings between “nodes” in a network (which could be
          people, machines, “partial object”, and actants of all sorts
    • what is “thinking”/ “reading” / “writing” ?
        – a means of linking/articulating/coupling actants together
    • where was this published?
        – nettime
    • what texts are cited?
        – see the genealogy of the text describe above
conclusions (1/2): terminology

   – general idea for today: networks are not just
     technologies; they can also be used as tool for
     understanding sociotechnical systems (i.e., as a
     semiotics)
   – the semiotic term “actant” can be used to describe
     humans and non-humans
conclusions (2/2): methodology

 – rather than assuming a set of dichotomies, it is often
   more useful to understand how the assumed “polar
   opposites” of a dichotomy are coupled together or
   mediated through a third party or material
 – to understand a sociotechnical system (e.g., an online
   discussion) it is useful to find and enumerate the
   actants of the system (which parts have or are
   acribed agency) and find and delineate the forces,
   ideas, actions, materials, etc. that couple these
   actants together into an actor-network
 – your assigned “map of an online space” can be
   understood as an actor-network and can be
   visualized like the examples shown today
    • see www.cybergeography.org for more examples
next time: artificial intelligence

• the “imitation game” of alan turing

				
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