Tuesday, September 25, 2012

linear flow

The articles we read this week came from three different decades—the 70s, the 90s, and the 00s, and they push the same line of thought in that they deviate more and more comfortably from linearity. Granovetter stayed within a network/nodular modeling system, but questioned whether the intimacy and density of social relationships were necessarily the most powerful, or if wide-ranging, loose systems of acquaintance might be more efficacious, and also noted that individuals’ networks would not be dense or loose on the whole but variable within the network (???). Appadurai begins a shift from a network system completely, turning instead to individualized ideoscapes, ethnoscapes, mediascapes, technoscapes, and finanscapes which resist (or come ever-closer to) gridded modeling and vary in strength and shape depending on context. He writes that “the central feature of global politics today is the mutual effort of sameness and difference to cannibalize one another and thus to proclaim their successful hijacking of the twin Enlightenment ideas of the… universal and the resiliently particular,” that is, that the particular is no longer defined by its place in a larger consistent landscape, but that all self-knowledge is in some sense particular and the places it overlaps with others’ self-knowledge (sameness) is what makes up the landscapes he describes. Thrift sets to modeling the “melt” and “flow” of such landscapes, positing that our conceptualization of information needs to shift fundamentally from accurate, mapped, individual points (networks) to a statistical and forward-looking model of qualculation for which error, projection, and the PRESENCE OF ACTIVITY became central rather than the content of that activity itself…

I'm interested in the relationship between the flow model and the grid model, and the liminal way in which our understanding and modeling of flow has to exist... Flow seems initially freeing in that it allows escape from one-size-fits-all overarching gridded progress narratives. But on an individual level, what enables flow to exist is the mass proliferation and availability of these very grids-- your mapped location, existence, tastes, opinions, preferences make up a specific personal network of connections mediated completely THROUGH nodularity and overarching relationships.... These larger connections are what give individual preference meaning. So individual maps exist more intensely/personally than ever... but this in turn gives power to statistical unpredictability and flow because so many individual actors and valences are making up each data point. The thing I'm left thinking about is Thrift's statistical model, Appadurai's landscapes, etc.... what matters, if accuracy of prediction does not? If the new cognitive world is by definition unpredictable and regressive from an overarching standpoint... what work can such a standpoint even do anymore? Is the only interesting source of information/value derived from the anomalies, the disjunctures, the unpredictable?

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