Friday, May 13, 2011

Are we still nodes?

The network metaphor is everywhere. Yesterday I travelled down to Oxford on the rail network; most of the time I could use my mobile (I'm on the Orange network). In the book I was reading Gilbert told me that in my brain 'millions upon millions of new connections are increasingly complex networks.' It seems that networks are both inside and outside me. That's a distinctively 20th century metaphor suggesting as it does desktop computers tethered together and interconnected. So a network is a connection between points or places, a channel of communication. But what happens when the metaphor is applied to the social? Actors are reduced to points - not even points of view, but nodes connected to other nodes. In the fluidity of everyday life we make and break ties, the signal breaks up, the network goes down - do we cease to exist? When we flicker in and out of communication, when we become more mobile are we still nodes? And how does the network metaphor consitute us as human subjects? Perhaps there's a better way of imagining communication and connectivity...

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