There are other typologies. There will be more. I may have
glanced a few of them casually (i.e., lightly & forgetfully), but I have not
gathered them together as part of any concentrated, focused effort or project. What I am trying to work through here is hit and miss. I think
hit more than
miss; if you think miss more than hit, tell me why, will you?
"Network" gets to be a God term. Invoked at every turn, it lugs around
a fleet of connotations, some of them especially burdensome for the sluggishness
they assign to the term. Consider my least favorite: network as a verb
for professional hobnobbing (business attire preferred). Here is
network in its commonplace form. Networking is schmoozing, clinking
glasses, play-acting, pretending to pay attention, death-by-boredom
conversation, etc. This mythology of network is bad for network studies
and bad for the complex-ion of networks. Unfortunately we begin with this term,
but it is a loose, pre-emptive reference (an I like the sound of networks, but
who knows what’s been said about them). I don’t have any misgivings
about the phenomenon of professional and organizational networks, complex
systems, making one’s way, etc. (see Burt, right?, also Weick).
My itch is with the verb network for the way it implies the gaming
of advantageous associations (this plays with Modern rules and roles, not
subjectivities). It reminds me of the mass media references to "rhetoric" as
only the most deliberately misleading and propagandistic political discourses,
where "mere," "dirty-rotten," and "icky" are implied.
I said there would be a typology. I’m getting to it. There are
five terms, but I think there need to be more. And like the dramatisms and
the stases, there are two- and three-term ratios among them, depending on the
network in consideration, the methodology, and so on. I will try to give
explanations or examples, but I don’t know yet whether I have them lined up for
each one–the network -eses.
Mathesis/Mathetic: Schematic/mechanistic. Quantification and metrology.
We find this in Social Network Analysis (SNA) and mathematical sociology.
Mathesis as learning produces a rupture that causes confusion (or some other
sort of fusion) between this and noesis.
Aethesis/Aesthetic: Evaluative/artistic. Distributed artistic production,
collaborative design, and collectively curated and circulated works. We
find this in distributed aesthetics and Saper’s Networked Art.
Saper keys on Barthes’ receivables for networked art; it is also a useful
alternative to readerly/writerly for aesthetic networks and their
Poiesis/Poetic: Rhetorical/productive*. I am tempted to align this with
new media, but these more generally organize around rhetorical practices
(invention, circulation). Poetic networks are more self-consciously rhetorical
than the other types (but I can’t think of any reason why this should always
be so). In network studies, poetic networks are behind in the
horse race. I mean that these other four network -eses
seem to me more common. This will change because of the growing convergence of
network studies with rhetoric and composition.
Noesis/Noetic: Rhetorical/epistemic*. Contemporary network studies has emerged
with these last two types, primarily. Knowledge as networked (slime molds
and emergence, semantic networks, etc.). I am tempted to call this the broadest
category. How what is known/knowable can be traced; knowing as connective. This type
(though not exclusively) guides many of the networkists: Barabasi, Watts, Ball,
Graphesis/Graphetic: Presentational/visual. Also rhetorical, this one
is introduced by Johanna Drucker, even if she doesn’t write explicitly of
networks. It is the wedge (or bridge?) between aesthesis and mathesis
where visual presentation motivates the approach. Many approaches to networks
involve graphesis; those that do not instead rely on narrative and databasic
modes of presentation (of course these have a visual quality, but they are more
discursive than presentational).
*I have started to think of these as identifiably rhetorical, but this does not mean
that the others are arhetorical. I was thinking here of primary
characterizations, not exclusive, inflexible ones.
I also want to say something about how network substitutes for community.
Community is easily falsified (named but not identified beyond the act of
naming). We have a community here in our graduate program, let’s say (this
has been said before, it’s just one example that comes to mind). But what is the network? To know this, we
must granularize the community. Flatten it out (Latourian-style, an
actor-network) so that we can put a finger on the ties. Who is working
with whom? Who has had courses with whom? Who has regular
conversations with whom? A community turned network answers a different
set of questions (even if you never ask them) because the paths are lighted (or
otherwise shone) and, consequently, patterned. This might sound like a
wild runaround. It’s not. I only mean that I prefer "network" to
"community." Community is more elusive, more capacious. I don’t find
the concept all that helpful (no, it conceals more than it reveals). Too often
when it is muttered I am surprised to learn that I
belong to anything promoted as so grandiose, well-understood, and inclusive
(such a thin gravy as to never have realized it was there). On the other hand, I
can sense a network, put a finger on it, tie it for oneself (a community, I
I put this together because I want something with more explanatory power than
what I have found in work I would describe as network studies. What
happens when we attempt a quantitative project (bean-counting) but attempt it in
service of other network aspects–not mathesis alone. This is tremendously
important to my work. I need to be able to explain these ratios because,
even while distant reading toward disciplinary "network sense" is, on the first
floor, mathematically invested, it is not ultimately mechanical, structural, or
schematic. It is, instead (and by my modest insistence) contorted (Latour
would say "acrobatically") into poiesis–into the making and doing,
into a heuristic that ought to mobilize.
What? That’s all? No. I said I thought there should be more
categories in this tentative, provisional typology based on network -eses.
I don’t know what to do with Benkler because I haven’t been careful about
reading Wealth, yet. I don’t know where infrastructural networks fit in
(the wires, routers, and such). Material and geospatial networks? Latour helps me (with ‘hybrids’ and ‘all points local’) think of these two as
either noetic or poetic. But this can be another cause for the wheels to
fall off at anything above Earth Wide Miles per hour.