Politics, Foreign Policy, Current Events and Occasional Outbursts Lacking Couth

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Social Networks of Control

In the last couple of days I've been reading a great book entitled 'The Exploit: A theory of Networks' by Alexander Galloway and Eugene Thacker. It was only published last year but for those interested in 4GW/5GW the authors of the book have coevolved a line of thinking very similar to the failure of the state, netwar, conspiracy, and superempowered individual view of fourth and fifth generation war.

Anyway, to get to some of the main ideas the book has so far. The main historical assertion of the book is that networked forms of power arised as an asymmetric correction to bloated bureaucratic forms of power. The authors state that Bureaucratic forms of organisation like governments have been trying to form networks because "it takes to networks to fight networks" (with the authors quoting Arquilla and Ronfeldt). The author states this is a bad idea because networks are a form of control and deindividuation. There is no outside control but there are internal forms of control which the authors called 'protocols', similar to the computer networking term. The protocols can lead to the internalised states of networks following group think, mob mentality or mindlessly following the swarm. These examples could be used for good or evil but what the authors argue is troublesome is the submission of the individual mind to the group mind. The network will decide on what you do.

One of the reasons the authors think governments forming networks is troublesome is because they will engage in the assimilation and destruction of other diversified networks. The authors claim leading political parties will become less about controlling policitical ideas than about the "control, production and regulation of networks." Take for example left wing politics. They are a diversified group of ideas. To tie them all together takes the ability of activists and politicians to regulate and control the diversified networks. They then become part of the protocols of a greater network.

The solution the authors posit is to build an anti-web form of organisation that is an asymmetric power to networks, as networks were to hierarchy. I haven't got through most of this part yet but the basic idea is that to build an anti-web form of organisation, which the authors arn't sure what looks like yet, you need to create individuals who cannot be assimilated into the networks. One possible way to do this is to create individuals who are "invisible" to the network forms of control. The authors call this "tactics of nonexistence" which means tactics to escape control of the network. The authors then quote Agamben:

"A being radically devoid of any representable identity would be absolutely irrevelant to the State." (For more of Agamben's theory of individuals like this click here)

The authors go on to say that measurable identity would be fatal to anti-web actors.

I haven't read the whole book yet, so hopefully I haven't made a strawman of the authors' account. Some of the ideas aren't new e.g. submission of a person to groupthink. Whilst some are a coevolution of the ideas put forth on Dreaming 5GW. Other ideas I'm not so sure I fully agree with e.g. total submission to the group through interrelations with others. The book is also very much along postmodernist lines. Ortho of Baudrillard's Bastards would love it, other readers of this blog may not. I really like it, and I think if you like futurist accounts of power and war then you'd like it to.


Jay@Soob said...

Hm. Sounds like an ultra-modern semblance of libertarianism. Fascinating. I'll have to heave the book atop the Anti-Library.

ortho said...

M├╝nzenberg, thanks for the shout out and book recommendation. I have heard of, but not read Galloway and Thacker.

You might find the writings of sociologist Manuel Castells of interest, especially his trilogy: The Rise of the Network Society, The Power of Identity, and End of Millennium. For more on Castells: &

Anonymous said...

I kind of like the idea of a lack of identity in the context of being 5GWably (heh, new word) unobservable. Add to that the consideration that a 5GW actor would operate to affect manipulation on all sides of a conflict and you have the basis for something 'outside the network' or perhaps 'anti-network'.

Very Cool.

G said...

Jay, interesting take on it.

Ortho, no problem. I've heard of Castells but have not read his books, i'll add them to my amazon list (if they aren't already on it cause it is getting huge now!). Thanks for the links.

arherring, glad you liked it. I recommend the book.

Purpleslog said...

I ordered "The Exploit" a little earlier today.

G said...

hey purpleslog, I hope you enjoy it. I reckon you'll like it.