Brian Holmes on Mon, 5 Nov 2001 01:52:36 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Re:NetHierarchies & NetWar

Windseye -

I guess the discussion of this thread is a little more complicated than you
make out. At stake are network ideals, technical networks and the sociology
of networks, all of which influence each other.
The most interesting network ideal is, for me, the one you refer to: "open
information, autonomy, dispersal of power and responsibility," etc. But
military and insurance-minded people have idealized networks as complex
systems of surveillance and control; and for media merchants, networks are
simply product delivery systems. There is a managerial ideal of networks as
well, which sees them as reducing friction, increasing productivity and
covering territory. These and other ideals influence the development of the
technical environment, the communications hardware (and, some would argue,
the transportation systems too). The sociology of networks looks at how
people actually behave in the technical environment, under the influence of
the different ideals. The whole thing forms an interrelated, dynamic system
whose borders are tricky to identify.

The naivete is to think that the hardware realizes just one ideal, when in
fact it makes conflict among all of them possible. The imprecision, in this
thread, may be to use the word hierarchy to cover all the types of coercion
operating in our networked environment. If a client I can't afford to lose
tells me to drop everything and work, and I do, that's arguably hierarchy;
and if a client-state effectively takes orders from a more powerful ally,
ditto. But if an idealist (say, subcommander Marcos) or a terrorist (say,
Osama Bin Laden), or a "neutral information provider" (say, CNN)
successfully touches off a swarm effect, is that hierarchy? I guess not. Is
it autonomy? Well, that depends on your ideals, doesn't it?

best, Brian

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