Wednesday, October 3, 2012

I have been struggling to write this blog post on Network Cultures more than on the past readings because I am totally fascinated with Terranova’s text, but also very confused by her seemingly unexplained conflation of the basic technical aspects of contemporary network culture and the social-political strains of contemporary culture which exist simultaneously.  Moreover, my confusions leads me to believe that I am perhaps completely misunderstanding some part of her argument, and I cannot figure out what or where that piece fits in.  Anyway, I will be more specific, as I am not talking about a confusion regarding her overall arguments about the relations of information to culture, but the more subtle asides Terranova includes, particularly in the first chapter regarding the history and definition of the term “information,” particularly within the paradigm of “information culture.” 

In this first chapter, it seems to be that Terranova uses the verbiage of information theory (signal/noise/etc) to construct a concept of what “information” is, or might be, which she then applies to theories of larger, physical manifestations of information within human societies.  For example:

“Indeed, Crasson (like Jean Baudrillard 20 years later) will conclude that information and meaning might be inversely proportional: the more information, the less meaning.  In this sense, the proliferation of information spells the drowning of meaningful experiences in a sea of random noise…In this sense, an informational culture marks the point where meaningful experiences are under siege, continuously undermined by a proliferation of signs that have no reference, only statistical patters or frequency, redundancy, and resonance (the obsessive frequency and redundancy of an advertising campaign…the incessant bombardment of signifying influences)”(14).    

While I am not opposed to Terranova’s argument, even in this passage, it seems incorrect to compare an advertising campaign (repetition through speech) to the repetition of signals traveling via digital channels.  While Terranova demonstrates a similar pattern that is apparent in both situations, it almost seems false to put the statements side by side, using the same verbiage (“frequency and redundancy”) as the problem of the speaker to reach an audience with a message is related, but in no way the same, as the problem of technology successfully channeling signals.  Furthermore, the implicit connection that Terranova draws here between speaker/message and signal/message seems contrary to the primary argument Terranova cites in the book, which argues a difference between information as a “signal” (which carries no meaning) and information in other milieus, which are entrenched in systems of referential meaning.  While this comparison and/or differentiation between mediums does not seem necessarily crucial when metaphorically discussing the digital realm to the social body of culture, it seems that the stakes are raised regarding the question of medium in the larger setting of this book’s in network culture, primarily regarding virtual space as its time/place/and medium. 

Despite Terranova’s discussions of relations between digital space and “real” cultural ramifications, I did not find a point at which these somewhat metaphorical jumps seemed to me to be explained or rationalized.  The discussion of relationships between the digital/virtual and the socio-political/”real” seemed more interested in connecting them than explaining any true parallel structure which could explain this, or other similar, direct comparisons.     

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