Engaging the concept of network helped me to better understand media. If a network is theoretical metaphor, a “‘tool to help describe something, not what is being described,’” the same could be said for a medium (Gane and Beer 32). According to McLuhan, money, the railway, and airplanes were all media as were television, newspapers, and cinema; understanding a medium as an explanatory metaphor rather than an actual thing in the world allows for his spectral use of the term. Understanding all of these as literal media requires the metaphysical accommodation of classifying all existent items as information in such a way that honors the distinction between an assemblage of the stored and imagined knowledge, unrecalled experience, and biological information and a comic strip as units of information. Conversely, this model of the medium containing content, which is “always another medium,” helped me to understand connections, rather than the nodes being connected, as the foundation of a network: As the content is always another medium so is each node simply another connection, or truly an assemblage of connections (McLuhan 203).
A similarly enlightening parallel can be found in Baudrillard’s “Order of Simulacra,” speaking strictly in terms of incremental magnitude. Baudrillard begins with the Renaissance during which time simulation’s primogenitor, the counterfeit, was produced; similarly, the relationship would function for networks. Next, Baudrillard identified the Industrial Age, which produced the series, which can be likened to a community in that while similar to what followed, it had a logic of its own. A community is tied together through “strong social bonds that are often forged through physical proximity,” rather than the me-centric networks “built by the choices and strategies of social actors” (Gane and Beer 25, 23). The network would correspond to Baudrillard’s model: As the model blurred the “boundaries between what is ‘real’ and what is virtual,” so to does the network blur the lines between the substantive and the relational (Gane and Beer 105).
Couldry speaks to this blurring in his directive to apply Actor-Network Theory to “think about people’s cognitive and emotive frameworks are shaped by the underlying features of the networks in which they are situated” (Couldry 103-104). For Baudrillard, media controlled “by virtue of its mere presence” and through its modelizing of content reducing it to a “single meaning” and neutralizing the “local, transversal, spontaneous”; Couldry uses the concept of liveness to extend this to networks: Media, television or the Internet, contrive a connection among participants by offering a privileged content that binds them to that content temporally—the group liveness facilitated by “mobile telephony” and the real-time control it affords its users over the physical space in which they occupy while remaining “continuously copresent to each other” threatens to destabilize liveness as it has been traditionally employed (Baudrillard 283, Couldry 105-106).
The engagement of, or participation in, texts from any medium is to locate oneself in a network relative to that text and to locate that text in a network relative to oneself. Texts can be understood as an immaterial capital put into circulation by those at the “points of interface between different networks,” for instance, who have an active role in “shaping, guiding, and misguiding societies” to maintain the status quo by limiting the “possibilities of action in certain ways” (Gane and Beer 21-22, Coudry 96). Generators of texts can locate the text explicitly through such devices as citations, allusions, and hyperlinks and implicitly through the mimicry of style. Some would argue that texts are also located in networks by the ideas that are presented within them, but Deleuze would assert that literature “has nothing to do with ideology” (Deleuze 407).
Deleuze considers books assemblages, specifically rhizomes. Rhizomes stand apart from the aborescent and the radicle by not manufacturing the multiple through binaries or through a rejection of those binaries; rhizomes are not defined by a set of points and positions, but lines—and these lines are not to be understood as “localizable linkages between points and positions” (Deleuze 409). They pertain “to a map that must be produced, constructed, a map that is always detachable, connectable, reversible, modifiable, and has multiple entryways and exits and its own lines of flight,” and writing, rather than an act of signifying, is a “surveying, mapping, even realms that are yet to come” (Deleuze 409, 408). When one writes, one creates a “machine” that “must be plugged [in] in order to work” (Deleuze 407). It is important to note that this machine is unattributable; it is wholly an assemblage of things, locations, movements/actions, and becoming/unbecoming—these terms being used for simplicity’s sake. I acknowledge the need for their reconsideration in light of the rhizome. As a participant of a network in which this machine operates, it is my function to identify what other machines have been plugged into and what sense can I make of this map as it is connected, modified, utilized, and deterritorialized.
And as all texts are networked and are assemblages of all other texts, eventually, I find it difficult to identify any single text with which I have interacted apart from any other text. I mean that while understand the individual, contingent texts themselves have been identified by the world, after the reading, I am compelled to challenge those designations, and with respect to determining the larger machines of which the contingent texts are a part, I could only identify them as they relate to each thing they are not, which, after Deleuze, has gotten a bit more difficult for me.
Couldry, Nick. “Actor network theory and media: do they connect and on what terms?”
Connectivity, Networks and Flows: Conceptualizing Contemporary Communications, by
Andreas Hepp, Friedrich Krotz, Shaun Moores, and Carsten Winter, Hampton Press, Inc.,
2008, pp. 93-110.
Deleuze, Gilles and Félix Guattari. “From A Thousand Plateaus.” The New Media Reader, by
Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Nick Montfort, MIT Press, 2010, pp. 407–409.
Gane, Nicholas, and David Beer. New Media. Berg, 2012.
McLuhan, Marshall. “Two Selections by Marshall McLuhan.” The New Media Reader, by Noah
Wardrip-Fruin and Nick Montfort, MIT Press, 2010, pp. 193–209.