Monday, November 9, 2009


"This scattering, this tendency to diverge and separate, coupled with that of converging and joining, presents different possible lines of actualization: it can reproduce the rigid segments of the social and hence its ghettos, solipsisms and rigid territorialities." (156)

As noted by (me.?), Terranova's book is preoccupied with replication. Reproduction is, of course, the element that perhaps best ties together Marxism and Biology; any sort of local density of particles which can be subsumed into a whole (information, genes, capital, power, language) contain the conditions of reproduction within it, in order to create the convergences of life. This connection perhaps comes to the fore when Terranova takes on Dawkins' theory of the "selfish gene"; however, various tensions seem to slip forward in her analysis that go unnoticed and leave Terranova's theory, as formed as it is, very unstable.

Terranova paraphrases Dawkins' concept as the understanding of "variations of populations as ultimately determined by the 'selfish' drive of individual genes." Terranova later defines the nature of this selfishness as "a sociobiological tension between competition and collaboration," reward and punishment, traced back not to Biology but to Capitalism, the imposition of morality on science. She criticizes this by calling attention to the dividuating nature of the gene, something that collapses and closes the multiple.

The issue becomes much clearer when Terranova attempts to transpose this "selfish gene" to the level of society, of individuals being reduced to competition and collaboration. This involves a clear 1:1 transposition; the human becomes the gene, society becomes the organism, the human. Yet this is impossible; it is simply a collapsing of multiplicities attached to multiple singulars (genes; we all have more than one, no?) into the singular itself, with the multiple being deferred into a higher level. The problem is not so much with the general structure of Dawkins' theory as it is with his choice of language and the actualization of the theory by the sorts of management specialists discussed in chapter 3. By now, it is clear that the nature of genes still allows for a multiplicity to exist within the individual (as multiple shared singulars), but the actualization of Dawkins' theory confuses the gene with the human.

This now puts a rather interesting light onto Terranova's assertion that "by rejecting the system's most basic sets of constraints, by rejecting the micromoulding of dividualism, they might push it out of control, towards a new plateau, whose outcome not nly cannot be predetermined but might also veer the system violently towards catastrophic transformations." Terranova, throughout her book, comes dangerously close to calling for the complete dissipation of identity and formations, swerving away by calling for a more general indeterminacy, one that calls upon affects to merely reduce communication to its unstratified "essence." But, of course, the theory of genes laid out above makes this essence impossible, as Terranova is still making the fatal confusion of society as interconnected individuals as opposed to individuals made up of interconnected genes; individuals are always stratified (singulars) and yet incorporeal, a plane upon which these singulars must all express themselves, reach out of, simultaneously. Suddenly, the individual becomes the site of the sort of variations Terranova attributes to the network. But then what is the network? I don't think it's simply another level of connectedness, another order (power set) of indeterminancy.

All I'm saying is that if Terranova had waited a year to write this book, it would have been way different.

Note: I'm not saying Web 2.0 is the answer to Terranova. Just that comparing the two points towards the definition of networks I'm moving towards.

Note 2: It's worth mentioning as an aside that users are not, in fact, really a part of the Internet; yes, they have IP addresses, but not domain names, DNS values. Instead, the Internet is the collection of localities through which the user moves to and from, across and between. The Internet (as information millieu) is filled by this movement, by the information/communication that brings it to life.

Note 3: As a last gesture towards a new definition of the network, let me say that this post's title is not arbitrary, however disconnected it may seem.

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