The language of networks now describes everything from the Internet to the economy to terrorist organizations. In distinction to a common view of networks as a universal, originary, or necessary form that promises to explain everything from neural structures to online traffic, this essay emphasizes the contingency of the network imaginary. Network form, in its role as our current cultural dominant, makes scarcely imaginable the possibility of an alternative or an outside uninflected by networks. If so many things and relationships are figured as networks, however, then what is not a network? If a network points towards particular logics and qualities of relation in our historical present, what others might we envision in the future? In many ways, these questions are unanswerable from within the contemporary moment. Instead of seeking an avant-garde approach (to move beyond networks) or opting out of networks (in some cases, to recover elements of pre-networked existence), this essay proposes a third orientation: one of ambivalence that operates as a mode of extreme presence. I propose the concept of "network aesthetics," which can be tracked across artistic media and cultural forms, as a model, style, and pedagogy for approaching interconnection in the twenty-first century.
The following essay is excerpted from Network Ambivalence (Forthcoming from University of Chicago Press).
Copyright (c) 2015 Patrick Jagoda
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