ARTS1090: “Network” is not just technical jargon afterall May 1, 2009

Filed under: arts1090,T15A — Winnie Ho @ 3:47 pm

Castells, M. Excerpts from “Informationalism, Networks, and the Network Society: A Theoretical Blueprint” From The Network Society: A Cross-cultural Perspective. Cheltenham, UK, Edward Elgar, 3-7 & 36-45.


When I think of the word “network”, a vivid image of lifeless blobs of informations moving to and fro on entangled wires with a lot of different nodes, pops up into my mind. The concept of “network” seems to be such a specialised, technical aspect of knowledge, that I find myself reluctant to understand properly. However, it was only by reading this week’s reading by Manuel Castells, that I was reminded that the concept of “network” is actually deeply embedded in our lives and they “constitue the fundamental pattern of life, of all kinds of life” (p 166).


Castells raised an important point that we often wrongly conceptualise the current world to be an “information society” or “knowledge society”, yet knowledge and information has be around since the start of mankind. The difference lies in the use of micro-electronics-based information technologies now. How can these technologies relate to Castells’ view of a “network society”? He noted “that technology can only yield its promises in the framework of cultural, organisational, and institutional transformations”; thus it is the incorporation of technologies into the existing networks of society and the world and not treating these technologies to be merely external tools is what makes the present world a “network society”. A more specialised term to describe this would be “informationalism”.


Also, Castells referred to William Mitchell’s work, which was about how information and communication technology is expanded and augmentated in the human body and human mind. This greatly reminds me of the concepts of “embodiment and disembodiment” as described in Mike Michael’s chapter on “Disciplined and disciplining co(a)agents”. Indeed, if we were not using micro-electronics-based information technologies at ease to the extent of incorporating them in our daily lifes and ourselves, such as searching on the Internet for assignments or listening to iPods during travel time, there wouldn’t be a need for a “network society” to emerge. 


So it is up to us, human beings, who ultimately decide how to make the best use out of technologies in building up networks for communication and information. I could not quite put the connection of networks and the different cultures in relation to globalisation, which was mentioned quite a few times throughout, but I do believe the enhancement of networks is bringing different parts of the world together in forming a massive global network.


In spite of the fact that I find this reading quite vague with a lot of nominalised terms and sometimes sarcastic (“And since resistance to reason is irrational, it must be obliterated to clear the shining path toward our promised shining star”… what?!), it was not too difficult to go through in entirety and it definitely made me rethink on the popular conceptualisation of a “information/knowledge society”. I think I’m not so afraid of the word “network” anymore.


Winnie Ho (z3292568)



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