Towards a general “internet theory”

I’ve just picked up Geert Lovink‘s latest book-length contribution to the debate on social media and theory, Networks Without A Cause: A Critique of Social Media. It’s extremely prescient and chimes with a load of thoughts I’ve been having around a number of issues since earlier this year (and most recently this past weekend).

I think I’ll save a more detailed analysis when I’ve read more of the book – perhaps as a sort of review using Geert’s work as a jump off point for/exposition of my own thoughts.

In the meantime I really wanted to share the final (extensive) paragraph from the book’s introduction which resonates with a number of themes I’m trying to explore and unpick for my own research. Enjoy…

“Why, after two decades, does no (general) “internet theory” exist? Are we all to blame? We need a contemporary network theory that reflects rapid changes and takes the critical and cultural dimensions of technical media seriously. Network theory still emphasizes the science-focused “unified network theory,” to paraphrase the language of Albert-Laszlo Barabasi. But we cannot merely study potentiality and growth patterns as pseudo-natural phenomena. There is hope: we can revolt against the mathematical shapes of networks. Humanities should do more than describe the times we’re living in. We can match untimely aphorisms with future scenario planning, speculative thinking with data journalism, and computer programming with visual studies. The overall aim is to ignite speculative futurism and celebrate singular modes of expression rather than institutional power plays. Many want to know how networks can guarantee “trust” while remaining open, flat and democratic. How can rapidly emerging concentrations of power be counter-balanced? If networks are so distributed and decentralized in nature, then why don’t they oppose the economies of scale that produce the Googles and Facebooks?”

More at Networks Without A Cause.

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