Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Overload & Virtual Space

In reading "Network Culture," one of the difficult things for me was that, as Tala pointed out in her post below, Terranova frames her arguments as intensely dichotic syntheses. Our labor is not unalienated nor exploited, it is a mutually beneficial conflation of the two. The transmission of information both fights against and creates noise, it relays the real/probable but at the same time gives shape to the virtual. Open systems are always on the verge of either immense productivity, or chaotic collapse. While I understand that she works throughout the book to move past the typical stereotypes and modes of thought surrounding network culture and politics (such as a single point of view taken from above), I often feel left without a clear idea of the impacts of these syntheses and any possible progression of how to use this information. Perhaps again, the very structure of Terranova's arguments is a reflection of the overload of information within present-day networks. While Terranova seems to be able to identify the key issues at hand in network politics, and present a compelling discussion, perhaps, in the midst of this fast-paced cultural whirlwind, it becomes nearly impossible to sort out how to use this information, what do we do with it. What does this mean for us. It seems as though, to me, as we discussed in section last week, Terranova's book is another embodiment mapping our surroundings that leaves us with an overload of information (very interesting, perplexing, enlightening, engaging information) but little idea how to proceed with this knowledge. What, again, has become of "progress?"

One idea, to bring a little more focus into this post, I would like to muse over is that of the relationship between the real and the virtual within networks. Terranova elegantly opens up the idea of the virtual as coming into being, into possibility (even if unlikely possibility) simply because it is in contrast to the "real," the transmission of information that is meant, expected, predictable... not corrupted. As she puts it:
"Information expreses the determination of probability, btu it does not exclude beforehand the occurrence of the extremely unlikely. It is because communication, as a political technique, attempts to enclise an informational milieu around the informational couple of 'actual/probable' that it also opens up another space - that of the fluctuations that produce the unpredictable…(26)"
This idea of the virtual, of a creation of infinite possibilities (that though ephemeral, all leave their mark on the system once they have been imagined), is one that catches my attention. This idea seems similar, to me, to that of the infinite possibility triggered by the paradigmatic possibilities within the semiotics of language, i.e. the many different words that could be replaced for any given word and be syntactically correct but alter the meaning of the system/sentence. As someone interested in pursuing writing, this is a concept that has floated around in my head (both due the hammerings of literary theory and my own general exploits). It also feels connected to me, again within language, to the idea of line breaks and breath in poetry. A break in a line emphasizes the particular words which surround it. When you come to the end of an enjambed line, infinite possibilities are formed, there is a multiplicity of meaning implicit in the poem, unsaid, but still possible, leaving traces through the reader's mind. All of that being said, I do not know how that related to Terranova's idea of the virtual, other than the fact that it has existed, in different forms, throughout history. What is the difference between the virtual space opened through digital networks and those created in the past by other systems such as language?

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