Brian Holmes on Sun, 4 Nov 2001 06:01:06 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> NetHierarchies & NetWar

Thanks for another useful post, Willard. It is important to point out the
differences between cyberwar and netwar, the latter being less related to
armed force and violence than to a strategic reflection on the
possibilities for social management within a networked
communication-and-control universe. Arquilla and Ronfeldt's recent papers
are explicit about that. See the rand site for anyone who hasn't read

Basically, I believe you are saying that a networked social structure
opens up the possibilities for variously nested and variously
interconnected hierarchies, creating fields of agency, as it were, in
which complex relations of power reside. You are saying that with enough
surveillance and analysis, people can identify the relevant hierarchies
and then, resources permitting, take actions to manipulate and further
"hierarchize" the networks.

This is certainly true (cf. the books on surveillance by David Lyon,
William Bogard, etc. to be convinced of it). But is it not also the case
that specific types of networks arose largely because people wished to
lessen the sway of hierarchy over their lives and social relations? I'm
thinking in particular of freelance work and the new, non-partisan forms
of political and cultural association. In both cases, actors deliberately
opt for the risks and uncertainties of merely punctual engagements toward
others, in order to escape fixed hierarchies. These kinds of people tend
to place a value on self-organization and resistance to manipulation,
which in your language would mean looking for cooperative situations where
the levels and nestings of hierarchy can _always_ shift, and practically
do shift very often and fast. Producing a particularly volatile "swarming"
in conflict situations, as we've seen in all the most interesting
democratic political confrontations of recent years.

Now, I do not mean to be naive, and suggest that the forms of labor and
association I have mentioned are unaffected by more stable hierarchies
(you'd have to be really naive...). Nonetheless, the antihierarchical
motivation is real and I think it has done a fair amount to shape the
actual forms of communication networks as we know them now (and to keep
them at leat partially available for democratic practice). What do you
think? Is this a side of the "paradox" you mention at one point?
Unfortunately your text becomes rather unclear precisely at that point,
but I imagine you have a pretty sophisticated idea about the whole thing.

best, Brian Holmes

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