network culture


My current research project—already well underway—is Culture in the Age of Networks: A Critical History, a  book that sets out to synthesize a historical understanding of our era, coming to terms with the changed conditions in culture, subjectivity, ideology, and aesthetics that characterize our new, networked age 

Culture in the Age of Networks historicizes the contemporary as a distinct sociocultural period. In contrast to specialized studies focusing on new media, this project aims to broadly understand contemporary culture as a synthetic historical narrative of a scope comparable to David Harvey’s The Condition of Postmodernity, Fredric Jameson’s Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, or Stephen Kern’s The Culture of Time and Space.

My thesis is that the network is not merely a technology but rather has served as a cultural dominant over the last fifteen years. Just as the machine made industrialization possible while acting as a metaphor for a rationalized, compartmentalized modern society and the programmable computer served the same role for the flexible socioeconomic milieu of postmodernity, today the network not only connects the world, it reconfigures economy, culture, even subjectivity. 

Postmodernity is long gone. An undergraduate today has no experience of it, nor do they recall a world before the Internet and mobile telephony, a political condition prior to neoliberalism, or an oppositional culture that had not been colonized. But we have also not had any kind of clearly identifiable rupture with postmodernity. Instead, I see network culture as an intensification of conditions latent in modernity and postmodernity. The subject, art, media, time, space, politics, the economy, and the public sphere are all radically changing, but this change is a process in which existing conditions intensify to entirely new conditions, thus sometimes becoming unrecognizable. In this book I look at these not in isolation but rather in terms of a historical period.

Beyond the Introduction, now posted below, the conclusion to Networked Publics, available here is a good entry point to what I am trying to do. A two-year-old chart that contrasts network culture to modernism and postmodernism can be found here.

I am posting this book in draft form. As such, it is less polished than makes me comfortable. As I revise it, revisions will be visible on separate revisions tabs.   


When I began this book in 2008, I imagined that my biggest hurdle would be making the case for network culture as a distinct period. Whether it's due to the chronological closure of the new decade or the economic crisis, network culture hardly seems novel anymore. Instead the heady optimism of its boom days has been blunted by a protracted period of economic restructuring. Once again dusk is falling and Hegel's owl of Minerva spreads her wings; history teaches us that we only begin to comprehend a form of life as it comes to a close.[1] But instead of a new condition, there's nothing on the horizon anymore except stasis, a steady sidewise drift through a time we hardly clock anymore.

If we turn back to the last great cultural and socioeconomic upheaval-the prolonged period of restructuring that began in the mid-1960s and lasted into the 1980s-we observe how, facing the rising complexity and costs of a globalizing world, with our faith in technology and even progress exhausted, we left the modern era behind for a new condition we would eventually call postmodernity. [2] Over the course of the last two decades, but most especially during the decade from 2000 to 2010, we left postmodernity behind as well, hurtling instead into network society. Technological advancements returned to our lives in force, while social, economic, and cultural changes transformed the world we live in. The network in all its forms-communications, commerce, and transportation-is the cultural dominant of our time, much as the machine was for the modern era.

To speak of network society or network culture is not to imply that networks are somehow new or unprecedented: postmodernity is also a culture of decentralized, global networks and what is modernity but the first regime of globalization and telecommunication? [3] But our networks are different. They are lighter, more pervasive, colonizing everyday life. There's no way to separate out technology from mainstream culture anymore. Digital media and network technologies have matured and dispersed, winding up in our laps, beds, even our pockets. They've become our primary means of communication not only in the workplace but beyond. The rise of the culture industry and the saturation of everyday life by media mark postmodern culture; the fall of the culture industry and the rise of a networked media industry marks the rise of network culture. The mass audience is atomized, dispersed across the Web into networked publics. [4] Newspapers, magazines, and book publishers together with the music industry are in crisis, unable to capitalize on the new condition as individuals turn to online search engines and aggregators that tailor media to their interests, to sites that allow them to produce content of their own and interact with their friends, and to sites that hold amateur-produced content. Nor can we ignore the cultural impact of new forms of connectivity: the majority of the world's inhabitants now own mobile phones.[5] Being reachable anywhere, anytime is no mere novelty, it transforms our relationship to place.

All of these connections are overtaking individuality. Alienation may be disappearing, but so is solitude. Still, laments for the solitary self are relatively rare and whereas a demand for authentic existence was prevalent among the young in modernity and postmodernity, such complaints are rarely heard from the young today. Constant connection can lead to overload-particularly with regard to the increasing permeation of non-work life by the office's electronic tether-but it seems we have collectively decided it is better than being alone. It's not so much that we have found a centered existence amidst all of the chaos, it's more that we have finally learned to live without it or at least stopped seeking a center. Heirs of Heroclitus, we are less centered individuals, more assemblages produced out of ever-changing network flows.

Ours is a global network economy, the product not only of networking technology but also of the inexpensive transport of people and cargo and the aggressive relaxation of trade barriers. Globalization dominates macroeconomic and foreign-trade policies since the mid-1990s and, under its influence, both nations and businesses are ever more networked, decentralized, and fluid. Or at least such is the impression that policy-makers and business leaders hope to give; amidst all this talk of decentralization and opportunity, income disparity is accelerating. Margaret Thatcher's dictum "there is no alternative" seems to be a mere observation of fact today as the "new economy" undid viable opposition movements throughout most of the world. Moreover today even dissent and agitation mobilize on the network as much as in the streets. Globalization and networks are no longer new, they are our starting point.

Network culture is predicated on connection. Contrast this with postmodern society and the digital technology of its day. A product of modernity, digitization is a process of abstraction that reduces complex wholes into more elementary units. In this, it is fundamental to capitalism: separating the physical nature of commodities from their representations permits capital to circulate more freely and rapidly. In turning objects, places, and people into quantifiable, interchangeable data, digital culture is universalizing. [6] Still, modernism is predicated on the precursor to digital technology, the machine, first the steam engine then the turbine and internal combustion engine. Postmodernism, in turn, is based on the computer, an endlessly flexible unit, more abstract than the machine, capable of being reprogrammed to fulfill any task. But today, information is less the product of discrete processing units, more determined by networked relations between people, between machines, and between machines and people. Ours is not a machine or information age, rather it is a network age, in which connection is more important than division. [7]

To illustrate, compare the physical sites of computing in digital and network culture. From the 1970s to the 1990s, the desktop microcomputer displayed information through a heavy cathode-ray-tube (CRT) monitor and-if linked to the network at all-was connected via a dial-up modem or perhaps through a high-latency first-generation broadband connection. In our own day, there is no such dominant site. The desktop machine is increasingly relegated to specific high-end applications such as gaming, graphic rendering, and cinema-quality video editing or employed for specific, location-bound functions (at reception desks, to contain secure data, as point-of-sale terminals, in school labs, and so on) while the portable notebook or laptop has taken over as the most popular computing platform. Whether desktop or laptop as a tablet, the computer and its interface are flattening, becoming a thin plane. Unlike the desktop, the laptop can be used anywhere-in the office, at school, in bed, in a hotel, in a café, on the train or on the plane-and the tablet takes this even further. Not only are present-day networks an order of magnitude faster than they were in the days of the dial-up modem, wireless technology makes them easily accessible in many locations. Smart phones bring connectivity and processing power to places the laptop can't easily inhabit, such as streets, mass transit, or automobiles. But such ultraportable devices are also increasingly competing with the computer, taking over functions that were once the universal device's purview.

In a prosaic sense, we are really dealing with one machine. With minor exceptions, the laptop, smart phone, tablet, television set top box, game console, high-definition television, wireless router, digital music player, even the automobile, airplane, and Mars rover are the same device, but they become specific in their speed, capacity, interfaces, and their mechanisms for input and output, for sensing and acting upon the world. All these are joined together by a universal, converged network, capable of distributing audio, video, Internet, voice, text chat, and any other conceivable telecommunications task efficiently. More than that, the network is also a cloud, a utility in which information resides, a "place" on which network-centric applications and data are stored.

[1] . "When philosophy paints its grey in grey, a shape of life has grown old, and it cannot be rejuvenated, but only recognized, by the grey in grey of philosophy; the owl of Minerva begins its flight only with the onset of dusk." G. W. F. Hegel, Elements of the Philosophy of Right, H. B. Nisbet, trans. (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 23.

[2] . Accounting for the transition away from Fordism to Post-Fordism and modernity to postmodernity is beyond the scope of this work, but interested readers might start with Perry Anderson, The Origins of Postmodernity (London: Verso, 1998), David Harvey,The Condition of Postmodernity: An Enquiry into the Origins of Cultural Change (Oxford, UK: Blackwell, 1989), and Fredric Jameson, Postmodernism, or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, (Durham: Duke University Press, 1991).

[3] . See for example Jameson, Postmodernism, or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, 38, Manuel Castells, The Rise of the Network Society, 2nd ed. (Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishers, 2010), 440. Also see the chapter titled "Postmodernization, or the Informatization of Production" in Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Empire (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000), 280-304, even if, as I will remark upon later, Empire is on the cusp between the postmodern and network culture.

[4] . Kazys Varnelis and Annenberg Center for Communication (University of Southern California), Networked Publics (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2008).

[5] . International Telecommunication Union, "Worldwide Mobile Cellular Subscribers to Reach 4 Billion Mark Late 2008," (September 25, 2008),

[6] . See the seminal discussion of abstraction, digitization, and capitalism in Charlie Gere, Digital Culture, 2nd ed. (London: Reaktion, 2008), 7-46.

[7] . Castells, The Rise of the Network Society, 500-09.

History as Intensity

Such talk about technology is banal now. Books that talk breathlessly about how everything has changed are common, but we've been remarkably uninterested in making sense of this condition in historical terms. Contrast this to modernity and postmodernity, both of which were inseparable from historicism, regardless of what modernists and postmodernists may have said of their day. The moderns sought to ground the flux around them by identifying the unique characteristics of their time, discerning the connections beneath seemingly disparate phenomena. The postmoderns claimed to be dubious of such narratives but they too couldn't escape from understanding their time as a distinct period, basing that distinctness on a traumatic rupture from modernity.[1] In contrast, we have no sense that something has happened, we can point to no definitive moment or break when network culture emerged. The privatization of the Internet, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the crash of the boom, the 9/11 attacks, the American invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and the collapse of the real estate bubble are all historical signposts in network society but none of these mark a rupture. Nor is there any accepted sense of a clear discontinuity. Postmodernism just faded away. Apart from a few academics, nobody seemed to care.

If neither modernist evolution nor postmodern rupture serves as adequate model of historical succession for us, we need to employ a different model that takes into account continuityLet's think instead of force, plateaus, saturation, and intensity. As a force saturates a field, the degree of intensity within that field increases, simultaneously becoming both more economic and more effective. As energy levels rise and fall, they cause society to pass through tipping points, producing phase-shifts between states or plateaus. Read this way, network culture is an intensification of postmodernism and postmodernism, in turn, is an intensification of modernism.[2] We have passed by a threshold or tipping point, leaving postmodernity behind, but one of the consequences of intensification is that whereas such passages were previously legible as ruptures, this threshold is imperceptible to us.

As a term, postmodernism was divisive, and its advocates insistence upon a rupture with modernism, forced theorists to position themselves for or against it. From the start, postmodernism is oppositional even if what it opposes is not always clear: its liberal advocates lead an aesthetic fight against the hegemony of a corporatized modernism, while conservative advocates cheer a return to historical form in the arts, and still others challenge earlier forms of thought with new, more contingent epistemologies.[3]

For us, the quarrel between the moderns and the postmoderns is a hard-to-understand war of the past. Not only are these movements distant from us, the very idea of a movement that advocates its time is. This is not to say t[4]hat theorists haven't tried to label the present in a similar fashion: "post-postmodernity," "fluid modernity," "second modernity," "altermodernity," "digimodernity," or "automodernity" are just a few of the labels that have been attached to the present. But these have failed to stick. Network culture simply does not take a stance toward the previous era or invoke a temporal break to justify itself.

Our model of intensification explains this: our inability to name our period is nothing less than an intensification of postmodernist anti-historicism. We realize what the postmoderns only dreamt in theory: an era that has stopped understanding itself historically. We regard history, when we do so at all, as an amusement, a disconnected set of trivia or a mine for styles more than as a lived reality. It isn't the history of the 1960s that concerns us; it's the veracity of the sets on Mad Men.

Even more tellingly, nobody turns to historians to understand the present. Books on network society have been written from the perspective of media studies, law, sociology, politics, even religion but historians have largely remained absent from this discourse. [5] A generation trained by the disciples of Karl Popper and Jean-François Lyotard has little interest in broad historical narratives, let alone ones claiming to frame the present day. Instead, historians confine themselves behind a thirty-year moving wall, the conventional wisdom being that a generation should have passed since the period that one studies to allow events to recede into perspectival distance. But this premise is flawed. Any history of the past is inadvertently a history of the present; the concerns, questions, and discourses of our time inform our reading of the other times. History, as the old adage goes, is a bag of tricks to play on the dead. No historian can claim objective and full knowledge of a topic. Instead, we produce insight through abstraction, carefully selecting facts and arranging them into compelling and meaningful, but still verifiable-or at least debatable-stories. Displacement is equally dangerous: if we can't pull the present out of our reading of the past, to seek allegories for the present in the past is as much a mistake.

When I argue for a historical understanding of network culture, I am not suggesting we try to populate a timeline of events or turn to chronological succession. As Fernand Braudel once wrote, "Events are the ephemera of history; they pass across its stage like fireflies, hardly glimpsed before they settle back into darkness and as often as not into oblivion."[6] My goal is to come to an understanding of the underlying structures of our time, not to reproduce its chronology through narrative. [7] As I will argue in chapter one, atemporality is a trap. If periodization is flawed as a model, repressing it is fatal. Claiming to avoid periodization, as Fredric Jameson suggests, allows the return of the repressed term at the level of narrative. Indeed, Jameson concludes "We cannot not periodize."[8] Even as historians claim to give up periodization, they continue to deploy terms like the renaissance, early modern, modern, or the postmodern. Having left behind the notion of the Zeitgeist, historians seem to be comfortable with the provisional frameworks they have become accustomed to as a means of testing relationships across disparate social and cultural phenomena. If we are unable to abandon periods then we need to be conscious about their use, not give in easily to arguments that need to be themselves placed in historical perspective.

If the network defines our time and if naming it doesn't come easily to us, perhaps we can accept "network culture" for provisional use, at least in this book. This is a nod to Castells's idea of the network society as a key reference point drawing together globalization with social and technical changes to produce a theoretical understanding of our era. Beyond Castells, however "network culture" seems to have some currency. Books such as Mark C. Taylor's The Moment of Complexity: Emerging Network Culture or Tiziana Terranova'sNetwork Culture: Politics for the Information Age establish a precedent for the term in scholarship. [9] Centers of study employ it as well, notably Geert Lovink's Institute for Network Culture and Douglas Thomas's Network Culture Project at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School of Communication. [10]

Existing analyses of network culture, however, largely isolate it in online media. Studies of new media are indispensable precedents for us, but network culture's effects are broader. Extending network culture from the purview of media studies to a broader historical understanding makes sense in part because of the more mature and pervasive nature of new media technologies today. During the 1990s, new technologies were still relatively isolated in culture, capable of being studied as "new media," their role circumscribed. Today new media have matured significantly, their influence spreading throughout society.

[1] . Jameson, Postmodernism, or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, 1.

[2] . I adopt this model from Jeffrey Nealon's reading of Michel Foucault's writing on power. See Jeffrey T. Nealon, Foucault Beyond Foucault: Power and Its Intensifications since 1984 (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2008), 32-48, 57-67.

[3] . Robert A. M. Stern, "Gray Architecture as Post-Modernism, or, Up and Down from Orthodoxy," L'Architecture d'Aujourd'hui 186 (August-September 1976), 83.


[5] . Some basic texts in the field include Yochai Benkler, The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006), Manuel Castells, The Rise of the Network Society (New York: Blackwell, 2000), Alex Galloway,Protocol: How Control Exists After Decentralization (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2004), Henry Jenkins,Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide (New York: NYU Press, 2006), Tiziana Terranova,Network Culture: Politics for the Information Age (London: 2003), and Mark C. Taylor, The Moment of Complexity: Emerging Network Culture (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003).

[6] . Braudel, The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II (New York: Harper Collins, 1973), vol. 2, 901.

[7] . I do, however, believe that the accelerated change that began under modernity means that the last two centuries require an attention to much more narrow time spans than in the previous eras. Thus, the Annales School's interest in the long duration, if certainly of interest for an understanding of an expanded modernity, is by no means the only form of history that we should be looking at.

[8] . Fredric Jameson, The Political Unconscious. Narrative as a Socially Symbolic Act (Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1981).

[9] . Institute for Network Culture, and "Network Culture Project, Some recent books with network culture in the title are Mark C. Taylor, The Moment of Complexity: Emerging Network Culture (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001), Tiziana Terranova, Network Culture: Politics for the Information Age (London ; Ann Arbor, MI: Pluto Press, 2004), and William J. Mitchell, World's Greatest Architect: Making, Meaning, and Network Culture (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2008).

Technological Determinism and Postmodern Theory

Historically, networks have been a fundamental human trait, civilization itself being the product of our need to make connections. We have been networked since the invention of language, if not before. Still, while we could understand all human history or, for that matter, modernity from the standpoint of the network-in terms of rapid forms of ocean and surface travel coupled with the telephone and the telegraph-something else is happening now. The network, Castells observes, is now the dominant means of social organization, the morphology of society. [1] Corporations, universities, even governments, not only embrace the network, they adopt it as an organizational model.

Where Castells's observations are primarily socioeconomic, with a side interest in culture, my ambition is to look at culture, which played a particular, crucial role in postmodernity. Postmodernism, for Jameson, is the cultural logic of late capitalism: capital colonized art as cultural technologies spread in industry. Postmodern artists reacted by abandoning the modernist project of autonomy and instead set out to blur the boundaries between high and low.[2] Under network culture, however, any distinction between high and low is leveled utterly. Contemporary art dismisses the populist projection of the audience's desires into art for the incorporation of the audience's desires into art and the blurring of boundaries between media and public. [3] Today whether a cultural artifact is cool or not matters more than its status in high and low (indeed, today unless the object is first cool, styling it as high ensures that it will be understood as kitsch). [4]

Beyond this kind of direct transaction between culture and the socioeconomic, my theoretical project is indebted to the Regulation School's understanding of how culture acts to regulate individuals and groups, allowing them to come together in a manner of behavior that keeps the regime of accumulation, or economic system going. Religion, class relations, family life, and habits of consumption all play a role in affecting the economic behavior of individuals. Employing the concept of culture as a form of regulation allows us to understand that subjectivity and desire have a crucial impact on the economic realm even if they are not directly determined by it.[5] In other words-and this can't be stressed enough-if technology and economy are key factors in shaping culture, they are shaped by culture as well.

Economic determinism is one danger for a project like this, but in stating that the network is the cultural dominant of our age, I can't avoid conjuring up the specter of technological determinism, the reduction of history to a product of the tools available to a society. But the error of technological determinism is not just that it reduces progress to technological developments, it's that it extracts technology from society. Technology is a social product, constituted by-and constituting-society: the acceptance and use of a given tool is dependent on a social milieu and in turn technological tools are necessary to produce society. As an explanatory model, neither social nor technological determinism is sufficient. And yet, the real lesson here is an epistemological one; network culture often understands itself as technologically determined. We are obsessed with technology as perhaps never before and thus more prone to think of it as a historical cause.

Modernism has a more mixed relationship with regard to technology and change. In Marshall Berman's summation: "To be modern is to find ourselves in an environment that promises us adventure, power, joy, growth, transformations of ourselves and the world-and, at the same time, that threatens to destroy everything we have, everything we know, everything we are…" [6] From the celebration of the technological destruction of tradition by the Futurists to the scientific understanding of vision at the Bauhaus to the machine aesthetic and technologism of Le Corbusier in the 1920s, many modernists embrace social, political, and technological change. Others, such as Paul Klee, Marcel Proust, Walter Benjamin, Samuel Beckett, and even the late Le Corbusier set out against the threat of unrestrained progress, declaring what Berman describes as a "decisive 'No!'" to aspects of modern life.

Postmodernism is more resolutely post-technological, dissatisfied with technology and rejecting the Utopian promises of modernization. With nuclear weapons a constant threat and a reminder of the dangers of science, the energy crisis, the end of the Apollo missions to the moon, the bankruptcy of modernist urbanism, the collapse of the modernist project in art, all lend postmodernism the sense of lateness, the mood of an era of limits. Under postmodernism, technology is regarded with wary pessimism. As late as the early 1990s, historian of science Leo Marx writes"'Technological pessimism' may be a novel term, but most of us seem to understand what it means. It surely refers to that sense of disappointment, anxiety, even menace, that the idea of 'technology' arouses in many people these days."[7] Marx observes that the Enlightenment ideal of progress toward a just society shifted toward first to the idea that technology was a key means to help achieve that aim, then to the belief that technology was itself the basis of societal progress. Disillusioned by a series of technological disasters (oil spills, environmental pollution, an out-of-control arms race, and so on) and the failure of a better society to come about due to technological advance, people became much more gloomy about its prospects. Generally seeing postmodernist skepticism as healthy, a cause for optimism, Marx also raises a flag of caution: "What many postmodern theorists often propose in rejecting the old illusion of historical progress is a redescription of social reality that proves to be even more technocratic than the distorted Enlightenment ideology they reject." That new technocratic narrative is none other than the network. [8] Marx observes that for two of the most important theorists of postmodernism, Lyotard and Jameson, the new global telecommunications networks are analogous to late capitalism, their flows of data thoroughly permeating society. This concerns Marx, since he feels that this too is a technologically determinist position even as the fatalism of the postmodernists strikes him as disconcerting. [9]

If theories of the network are latent in postmodernism, they are still unformed. The network's future role is unclear. Even in the early 1990s when Marx is writing, networks and media had hardly changed in a half-century. Television had acquired color, cable, and videotapes, but the mass media of the 1980s was structurally little different than the mass media of the 1950s, only marginally more differentiated. Television still dominated a media system in which signals flowed top-down from a relatively small number of producers to a vast body of consumers. For postmodern theorists, media is all but equivalent to the television, the networked computer being either an abstract idea derived from secondhand knowledge about mainframe technology or, alternatively, an enhanced television (for passive reception) more than anything else.

The network, then, is the limit of the postmodern. Sensing the network's all-pervasive nature, the postmodern theorists are unable to dwell fully within it or see past its horizon and instead are forced to describe it only as an analog for capital, a vague conflux of mass media.

[1] . Castells, 500.

[2] . Jameson, Postmodernism, or, The cultural logic of late capitalism.

[3] . Kazys Varnelis, "Conclusion. The Meaning of Network Culture" in Varnelis, ed. Networked Publics (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2008), 150.

[4] . Alan Liu, The Laws of Cool: Knowledge Work and the Culture of Information, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004).

[5] . Harvey, The Condition of Postmodernity: An Enquiry into the Origins of Cultural Change, 121-40.

[6] . Marshall Berman, All That Is Solid Melts into Air: The Experience of Modernity (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1982), 15.

[7] . Marx, "The Idea of 'Technology' and Postmodern Pessimism," in Merritt Roe Smith and Leo Marx, Does Technology Drive History? The Dilemma of Technological Determinism (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1994), 238.

[8] . Marx, 256.

[9] . Marx, 257.

The Return of Techno-Utopia and Its Dangers

As postmodernism faded in the 1990s, techno-utopianism replaced techno-pessimism. The rapid transformation of everyday life through technology in the 1990s and 2000s suggested to enthusiasts that technology would naturally lead to positive societal change. Soon, media writers brought back techno-utopianism, blending the bohemianism and libertarianism prevalent in the San Francisco Bay Area with an enthusiasm for technology. Proponents of this position argue that new communications technologies make possible a Jeffersonian democracy of equals, capable of freely expressing themselves and deliberating about the crucial issues of our day in the electronic agora.[1]

Even with the collapse of the economy in the fall of 2008, few seem to expect a slowdown in technological progress. On the contrary, to many technology is the way past economic collapse. In stark distinction from postmodernism, technological pessimism is now hard to find. Although the limits of nature continue to be keenly felt-global warming, peak oil, and genetic abnormalities are all great concerns of our day-generally speaking our hope is that innovation will rescue us. We've absorbed a market mentality: live for the moment and let new technologies or net businesses take care of old problems. The environmentalist movement of the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s is now replaced by the thoroughly commodified "green movement," the call to action of Silent Spring replaced by recycled-plastic shopping bags. Even the concern about global warming evokes technological solutions.

Much of the contemporary writing about technology and society today is enthusiastic about change. This is particularly true for those writers who investigate new, technological forms of cultural production. In part, this is necessary for political purposes-for example to encourage reform (or at least discourage negative change) of copyright laws that inhibit the use of remix or to stimulate government policies that would support the deployment of new media in education. Provisionally, such work is necessary, but such arguments get in the way of fully examining our moment historically. There is much to applaud about network culture, but much to condemn as well.

I set out writing this book without a preconceived idea that network culture is either positive or negative, a position likely to ensure a negative reaction from both network culture's critics and its enthusiasts alike. Unquestionably, there is much to be said for the new, networked life that is emerging. But we must be critical, challenging network culture where it needs to be challenged, curbing our enthusiasm where necessary and agitating against it as conditions warrant.

Finally, a word about the scope of this book. If my goal is a global understanding of network culture, I set out to do this as someone who teaches both in the United States and Ireland and also has roots in Lithuania. One of the defining characteristics of network culture is its global scope. But if the network has no center, its most dominant nodes are nevertheless in the United States and Europe, even as the rest of the world continues its rise. The West continues to dominate the network through its control of political institutions, finance, media, and technology. That said, nothing could be more important than counter-narratives of our time from other cultures, a task for which I am by no means qualified.

[1] . Barbrook and Cameron, "The Californian Ideology," (August 1995),


This book is organized around six chapters, each of which addresses a key chapter of network culture.

Chapter One, "Time" opens with the paradox: how to understand ahistorical network culture in a historical context? The chapter begins with a discussion of how history emerged under modernity, flourished through postmodernity, and met its demise at the end of the millennium. Continuing to set the theoretical and historical stage for the book's main arguments, the chapter inventories changes in temporality and historicity in society, their impact on cultural forms as and crucial changes in the temporality of capital.

Chapter Two, "Space" compliments the chapter on time with an examination of the development of space within network culture, offering a geographic and spatial understanding of the contemporary moment. This chapter looks at how networks structure a new spatial condition, exceeding the capacity of the Cartesian grid. The world is thoroughly urban and yet, for the first time, social encounters are as likely to occur in placeless media as in a physical place. This chapter introduces theories of networked economies and globalization as well as the structure of networked, converged communications and surveys attempts to map networks visually in art and design.

Chapter Three, "Publics" builds on the idea of networked publics that we developed in the volume of the same name. [1] As place gets more demographically fragmented, so does the idea of the public. This chapter contrasts the idea of the public sphere and mass culture to a networked public in which consumers and producers begin to blur and cultural consumption takes place along a long tail of niche audiences. I explore how network culture witnesses the fall of both the institutions of mass culture-the record labels and television networks-and the institutions of the public sphere-the newspaper, magazines, and academic journals. This chapter also addresses the political consequences of networked publics and the art movement of relational aesthetics.

Chapter Four, "Poetics" provides an overview of the change in culture from Enlightenment ideas of realism to an immediated reality (a paradoxically unmediated presentness embodied in media). In particular, this chapter looks at our construction of reality through the cultural forms of network culture. Along with the fall of the periodical, the dominant literary form of the Enlightenment, the novel, is increasingly obsolete, replaced instead by the documentary. This chapter also explores the rise of reality television and, a new obsession with reality in art. Here I also turn to related trends in art, especially oversaturation which uses sensory intensity to embody its presentness. The chapter concludes with a discussion of video games as an emerging form of art in network culture.

Chapter Five, "Subjectivity" explores the dispersal of the subject under network culture. Here I draw a sharp contrast between the Enlightenment, an era dominated by specialization and distinction, and today, in which these begin to disappear. After a brief discussion of poststructuralist theories of subjectivity, I turn to the impact of the network on the subject today. In particular, I read this through the rise of remix as a cultural practice, not only in music but also in visual art. The chapter concludes with an assessment of the end of privacy and our collective renunciation of privacy.

Chapter Six, "Control" concludes the book with an assessment of both economy and political ideology. The chapter begins with a survey of economics the last two decades and the network effects that animate it while leading to greater disparities of wealth and power. The book concludes with an assessment of how network culture and neoliberalism have shaped each other and the prospects for change under these conditions

[1] . Varnelis and Annenberg Center for Communication (University of Southern California), Networked Publics.

1. Time. History Under Atemporality

Architecture was always the leading cultural indicator for postmodernism so when historically eclectic form rapidly fell out of fashion after the MoMA "Deconstructivist Architecture" show in 1989, it was a sign that the era was drawing to a close. But if historically eclectic architecture gave way to work that delivered up modernism as a handful of broken shards, that too waned over the course of the 1990s. [1] So did theory, both in architecture and in the academy. There the transitional decade was marked by the Any project, consisting of a series of conferences, books, and a journal that came to a predetermined expiration date at the millennium as well as Assemblage, the leading theoretical journal in the field, which also shut down in 2000, the editors declaring it time not only for the end of the journal but for the "end of the end."[2] Outside of architecture, seemingly as soon as theory had become widely accepted in the academy, theorists rushed to declare their project obsolete. Outside of architecture the story was the same: by the mid-1990s theorists began writing about the impending death of postmodernism and of theory.[3]

Postmodernism is little lamented today. While we may agree that somewhere along the line it vanished, few bothered to note its death and fewer still mourned its passing.[4] Contrast this with the Oedipal nature of postmodernism, which even in its very name announced its temporal framing as a succession of the modern. Take Fredric Jameson's seminal 1983 essay on "Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism," which he begins by observing that the era was filled with a sense that "some radical break or coupure" had just occurred.[5] In the Language of Post-Modern Architecture, Charles Jencks identifies an exact point of rupture, declaring "Happily, it is possible to date the death of Modern Architecture to a precise moment in time:" the controlled implosion of Minoru Yamasaki's Pruitt-Igoe housing in St. Louis, Missouri at 3.32 pm on July 15, 1972. For Jencks, the failure of this award-winning social housing project marks the end of the modernist architectural plan's ability to create positive social change. [6]

In proclaiming rupture, however, the postmodernists repeat a fundamentally modernist move, made most famous by Virginia Woolf when she stated that "on or about December 1910 human character changed…"[7] Certainly in part, Woolf is referring to the impact of the show "Manet and the Post-Impressionists" mounted that year by her friend Roger Fry but hers is also a wry commentary on how common such punctual visions of rupture were at the time. Whatever the point of reference, be it World War I, the Russian Revolution, Pablo Picasso's painting of the Demoiselles D'Avignon, or Kazimir Malevich's Black Square, a temporality of rupture is endemic to modernism. Advocates of postmodernism repeat this.

But there is no rupture with postmodernism today, nor are there many claims that our time is somehow different. It's as if the end of history really did come. If any observation about history defines our time, it's science fiction novelist Bruce Sterling's conclusion that network culture produces a form of historical consciousness marked by atemporality. By this, Sterling means that having obtained near-total instant access to information, our desire and ability to situate ourselves within any kind of broader historical structure have dissipated. [8] The temporal compression caused by globalization and networking technologies, together with an accelerating capitalism, has intensified the ahistorical qualities of modernism and postmodernism, producing the atemporality of network culture.

Unlike modernism and postmodernism, network culture not only refuses to seek legitimation in the past by breaking from previous eras, it fails to even name its own time. But we don't even have to look at periodization writ big. Not only is there no name for our era, simple chronology is a problem today: even now that it has concluded, the last decade remains nameless-is it the 2000s? the '00s? Perhaps, hinting at emptiness, it might be the "noughties," the "aughts," or worst of all the "naughty aughties"? The lack of a proper name for the decade is no mere product of a linguistic difficulty or a confusion between century, millennium, and decade. Rather it suggests that we no longer seem capable of framing our time. [9]

If we take modernity as a social phenomenon, that is, as the experience of consciously living in a changing present, then we have never been more modern. But, as its reliance on rupture shows, modernity isn't merely a timeless sociological category: it is also a period marked by an attitude toward history. To resort to a rather complex construction, modernity is a historiographic concept referring to a period that defined itself by a changed concept of history. Nor is postmodernism different in this respect. If it treats history as pastiche-abandoning progress and mocking modernism's teleological goals-the pains it takes to do so and the degree to which it insists on understanding itself as a supercession of modernism-underscores how much it continues to rely upon history for its very existence. [10]

But history is complicated, full of retrogressions and anticipations, projections and false starts. No matter the rhetoric, no period is absolute. Notwithstanding our claim that network culture is ahistorical, it is possible to create a fold in that condition, to read network culture against the grain as a historical process, an intensification of pre-modern, modern and postmodern temporalities as well as a unique condition of its own. Now whereas a historical account of the disappearance of the modern sense of history is a tricky proposition, it is also by no means an epistemological contradiction. For if quite recently we still had the capacity to think temporally, going further back in time reveals that modernity produced a sense of historical consciousness. Thus, by understanding just how and why individuals began to think about the world temporally, we may throw our own era into heightened relief.

[1] . Hans Ibelings, Supermodernism: Architecture in the Age of Globalization (Rotterdam: NAi, 1998), 55-57.The rapid rise and fall of "Deconstructivist Architecture" inspired the interest in architecture and fashion soon after (personal conversation with Paulette M. Singley). See also Paulette Singley and Princeton University. School of Architecture, Architecture, in Fashion (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1994).

[2] . Compare Jean Baudrillard, The Illusion of the End (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1994). and Hays and Kennedy, "After All, or the End of "The End of"," Assemblage (2000): 6-7 %U

[3] . Neil Brooks and Josh Toth, The Mourning After: Attending the Wake of Postmodernism, Postmodern Studies (Amsterdam ; New York: Rodopi, 2007), 1. Peter Osborne, The Politics of Time: Modernity and Avant-Garde (London ; New York: Verso, 1995), vii. Michael Payne and John Schad, Life after Theory (New York: Continuum, 2003), ix; Martin McQuillan, Post-Theory: New Directions in Criticism (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1999); Thomas Docherty, After Theory: Postmodernism/Postmarxism (London ; New York: Routledge, 1990). B Latour, "Why Has Critique Run out of Steam? From Matters of Fact to Matters of Concern," Critical inquiry 30, no. 2 (2004).

[4] . On the lack of interest in the end of postmodernism, see Raoul Eshelman and ebrary Inc, "Performatism, or, the End of Postmodernism." (Aurora, CO: Davies Group, 2009), One of the exceptions is Robert Samuels, New Media, Cultural Studies, and Critical Theory after Postmodernism: Automodernity from Zizek to Laclau (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009).

[5] . Jameson, Postmodernism, or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, 1

[6] . Charles Jencks, The Language of Post-Modern Architecture (New York: Rizzoli, 1977), 9.

[7] . Virginia Woolf, Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Brown (London: The Hogarth Press, 1924), 4.

[8] . Bruce Sterling, "Atemporality for the Creative Artist," in Beyond the Beyond (2010). The changes Sterling describes imply ahistoricism more than atemporality, but with the use of atemporality to refer to new forms of cultural practice spreading, it seems that a certain precedent has been set. Moreover, referring to this phenomena as atemporal, allows us to better understand its effects on the temporal experience, which will occupy us later in this chapter. In the interests of full disclosure, Sterling and I have been batting these ideas around for some time now via our blogs and twitter.

[9] . "It's 2002 - and the decade still has no name," BBC News, For a collection of mainstream media links on the problem of naming the decade, see Also see

[10] . Compare with Jameson, Postmodernism, or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, 311.

Modernity and History

There is no single point when modernity emerged. Already in the twelfth century, Peter of Blois proclaimed that the moderns had gone beyond the ancients: "We are like dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants, thanks to them, we see further than they." Still, as late as the end of the sixteenth century, individuals widely believed that the golden age was in the past and that the world was decaying. [1]

A tipping point emerges in the seventeenth century. In 1605 Francis Bacon opens the century with the paradox: " Antiquitas saeculi juventus mundi," antiquity was the youth of the world: "[t]hese times are the ancient times, when the world is ancient, and not those which we account ancient, ordine retrogado, by a computation backward from ourselves." [2] Accumulation (of both knowledge and things), Bacon senses, is growing and with it, the present advances away from the past. At the time, primitive accumulation of capital was starting to concentrate wealth in the hands of a rising bourgeois class in Europe, the spread of print was making it possible for information to be rapidly shared while giving rise to new ways of thinking about the organization of information, and cracks were showing in the edifice of feudalism as power re-oriented around courtly life. [3] Although they were not able to conceive of modernity, individuals like Bacon could begin to glimpse themselves as having broken from the world that came before. The quickening pace of life and the advancement of knowledge opened up a rift with the past, prompting writers to forge new ideas about periodization.

Economic development advanced slowly in the seventeenth century, when it advanced at all, and progress was far from assured. But with the scientific method coming together for the first time to challenge natural philosophy and even, tentatively, Christianity as ways of knowing the world, the days of the past were numbered. Toward the end of the century, the Querelle des Anciens et des Modernes directly called the past's preeminence into question. In his Parallèle des anciens et des modernes en ce qui regarde les arts et les sciences, Charles Perrault declares the modern age to be superior; after all, it has taken place under the rule of Louis XIV, the "most perfect model of all kings." Nevertheless, for Perrault the consequence of living in a new golden age was that decline would soon follow: "We ourselves are the ancients," he suggested, in a tone more melancholy than Bacon's. But by invoking "the century of Louis the Great," Perrault wound up reframing the word siècle from in its traditional use of a generation or an age associated with one ruler to refer to a hundred year span that he identified as having a birth, character, and death. Others would soon build on this chronological framework and claim it for their own centuries. In the December 1699 issue of Le Mercure galant, the most popular French journal of its day, Jean Donneau de Visé, a man of letters, would anticipate the coming century and its distinct character. [4]

This new interest in understanding one's place historically accompanied a greater attention to timekeeping in everyday life. The clock, which Karl Marx describes in a letter to Friedrich Engels as "the first automatic machine applied to practical purposes," began to subject individuals to its unwavering order.[5] By the fifteenth century cities competed to build impressive public timepieces, leading to the identification of urban life with clock time.[6] Soon enough, household clocks and pocket-watches spread and time ceased to be the sole province of church and town. In England, priests began to keep registers of births, marriages, deaths as well as significant events in their parishes.[7] [8]

Well past the tipping point into modernization, the eighteenth century would witness industrialization, secularization, fundamental changes in class structure, even uprising and revolution. Reinhart Kosseleck suggests that European exploration and colonialism not only allowed capital to accumulate in Western Europe to such a degree that it helped fund the investment that produced the Industrial Revolution, it also spurred historical thinking and periodization. When intellectuals in the West observed what Kosseleck calls the "contemporaneity of the noncontemporaneous," they came to understand that there was a lack of historical synchrony among cultures and, as a result, imputed to their own culture a universal world history with a trajectory of progress.[9] Compounding this, with the antiquarianism of the seventeenth century giving way to archeology, the scientific study of the past, notions spread that the present was greater than the past and that historical evolution was natural. [10] At the close of the eighteenth century, thought itself transformed, historical ways of understanding replacing the classical explanation of the order of things in terms of taxonomies.[11] If the moderns of the Querelle still understood power-and with it, history-to reside in the sovereign, the progress of the subsequent century gave rise to the faith the modern idea of progress and with it, the idea that the subject of history was not the sovereign, but man and his liberation.' From then on, the world would be apprehended historically.

The nineteenth century was ruled by historicism. Secularized versions of Christian eschatology, progress and evolution produced a faith immanent to an age in which Marx observed "all that is sold melts into air."[12] Being, in a worldview dominated by historicism, was becoming. For Stephen Toulmin and June Goodfield the nineteenth century is nothing less than "the Century of History" and this extends both backward and forward.[13] To many of those living in the maelstrom, change was constant and radical, and it seemed plausible to imagine that one day soon, the good news would come and modernization would be complete, delivering paradise on Earth.[14] Knowledge was thoroughly historical. Take Michel Foucault's "founders of discursivity," the thinkers who established the key discourses of modernism: Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud, but also Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Charles Darwin, and Heinrich Wölfflin. Their discourses were all historical. [15]

One strain of modernism-epitomized by Futurism and dada but also by Soviet Communism-calls for the violent collapse of existing temporality, a break within time that ends continuity, and the unequivocal death of past orders. Even this project, however, relies on a historical model. Like their predecessors in the nineteenth century, the twentieth century moderns ameliorate the disorienting nature of change by grounding the present in a historical continuum with a telos. A direction is key, be it the emancipation of the rational subject, the liberation of the oppressed worker, the reunion of thinking and feeling through design, or the development of advanced technologies.

The moderns live in a world of the past, occupying what Jameson calls "a culture of incomplete modernization." [16] Not only is history the mode by which they justify themselves, it is the context in which they operate. Even as industrialization makes the life of the countryside obsolete, the latter is nonetheless still vividly present in modernity. The time of longue durée, the "Long Middle Ages" for Le Goff was not so much an era, but a civilization coexisting with the city. Le Goff suggests that the Long Middle Ages last until the nineteenth century, when modernity takes hold, but it's clear that they still remained, in pockets, well into the twentieth century.[17] For example, take Pierre Nora's observation that even at the end of World War II some 50% of France remained agricultural. Modernity was predicated on the division between a new, vital urban life and a dying, old countryside, the former inconceivable without the latter. Nor was the rural world forgotten to those who had left it for the city. After all, no mater how great the depictions of city life by the likes of Edward Degas and Georges Seurat, the afterimage of the countryside recorded by Vincent Van Gogh and Gustave Courbet was no less compelling and no less an image of modernity. After all, it is the backwardness of the countryside that leads the displaced peasantry to the city, that "consumer of men," in which they would become the urban proletariat, the diversity of their experiences a constituent part of the modern city's engine.[18]

Beyond the lingering persistence of rural ways of life, the moderns daily confront the detritus of the existing city, rapidly becoming antique. Wandering the detritus of early capitalism, they dreamt a world already modern. Here we could do little better than to turn to Walter Benjamin's description of the century-old Paris Arcades as the "ruins of the bourgeoisie." Paraphrasing Jules Michelet's observation that "each epoch dreams the one to follow," Benjamin elaborate, "in dreaming, [each epoch] precipitates its [successor's] awakening." [19]

Take Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's 1919 photomontage of his competition entry for the skyscraper on Berlin's Friedrichstrasse or Le Corbusier's photomontage of the Plan Voisin six years later. In both cases, the architect represents the existing city but proposes a dramatic rupture within it, a caesura that takes place not only in terms of the project proposed but also in the form of its representation. The crystalline modernist structures are of a different order entirely than the existing city, harbingers of an aesthetic, technological, and even political transformation that would one day be total, but still co-existed with the old city. In these photomontages, the modern object promises that the nineteenth-century city is a ruin that soon would be swept away. Just as Cubism preserves the corpse of the past by showing traces of representation, these architects had little choice but to acknowledge the persistence of the past: it was all around them. If nothing else, their experimentation was a Freudian process of working through, allowing the modernist subject to break free of the past by confronting it.[20] Such was modernism at its apogee, becoming rather than being, full of hope and promise for a new world.

Ernst Bloch sees modernism as the outcome of this clash of conflicting historical realities, the "simultaneity of the non-simultaneous." [21] In affirming modernity, the moderns set out to level the remnants of both court and church, deterritorializing the world they found and reterritorializing it with tools immanent to it. Still, as Perry Anderson points out, the term modernism is too broad.[22] It is a straw man coming late to the scene to reduce the diversity of the preceding era for ideological purposes.[23] After all, for many "modernists," modernity's promise was far from Utopian. Rather, in sweeping away the ancient structures of the premodern together with the obsolete traces of early modernity, progress threatened no end. At the end of his life, Benjamin saw modernity's progress as nothing less than a storm, "one single catastrophe," violently throwing up a growing pile of debris and wreckage.[24] Nor was he alone: negation was as an important a strain in modernism as the Utopian imagination. If the past was a heavy burden for some, its disappearance was traumatic for others-van Gogh or Marcel Proust for that matter-who registered the passing of a world. Still, whether figured as Utopia or negation, fear of the future or not, at base modernism assured itself that modernization had begun, a preliminary rupture with history had opened up that would be completed in the form of a second rupture that could only emerge when modernization was over.

But that moment has long since passed. With modernization over, so is our experience of modernity. As capital and the metropolis came to dominate all aspects of life, the lived experience of the pre-modern came to an end and with it too, the experience of modernization. The messianic promise of the disenchantment of the world, liberating us from the worship of ancestors and spirits failed to deliver us Utopia, even as modernity triumphed, obliterating the past. It is in this sense that at the close of the century, T. J. Clark inverts Bacon's paradox, declaring "Modernism is our antiquity." Once modernity fully arrives, Clark concludes, modernism becomes unintelligible: "the forms of representation it originally gave rise to are unreadable."[25]

As modernization completes in the West after World War II, modernism associates itself directly with capitalism. Communism had been irreparably damaged by Stalinism and many leftist modernists-from Walter Gropius to Clement Greenberg-saw compromise with liberal corporatism as an acceptable form of collectivism. Having lost their faith in an alternative order, these bureaucraticized moderns turned to affirming the status quo instead, negotiating improvements within the liberal postwar state, an aesthetic parallel to the end of ideology that Daniel Bell observed in political history. [26] But theirs was not so much a Utopia as a damaged condition: unwilling to produce a rupture within modernism, unable to claim that modernism could end the alienation created by mass-produced society, they could only deploy abstract, formal strategies for mediation and call for the autonomy of art even as that too was rapidly dissipating.

Such late modernism corresponds to a first phase of Ernest Mandel's late capitalism, the era in which capital finished colonizing the remaining pre-capitalist enclaves. Although Mandel identified those enclaves with the primitive agricultural areas of the developing world, Jameson understood postmodernism as the effect of capital's colonization of culture.[27] The postwar culture industry would be informed by the techniques of modernism while art would allow capitalism in, most clearly in pop art's direct references to the culture industry.

[1] . On the critique of origins, particularly applicable to the origins of modernity, see Michel Foucault, Language, Counter-Memory, Practice: Selected Essays and Interviews (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1977), 140. For Blois and the emergence of new views of the past see David Lowenthal, The Past Is a Foreign Country (Cambridge [Cambridgeshire] ; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1985), 87-89.

[2] . Francis Bacon, The Advancement of Learning and the New Atlantis, The World's Classics, No. 93. (London,: Oxford Univ. Press, 1906), 35.

[3] . On the impact of print culture on thought, see Elizabeth L. Eisenstein, The Printing Revolution in Early Modern Europe, 2nd ed. (Cambridge ; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005), Walter J. Ong, Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word, New Accents (London ; New York: Routledge, 1991).

[4] . Joan E. DeJean, Ancients against Moderns: Culture Wars and the Making of a Fin De Siáecle (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997), 1-30.

[5] . Gerhard Dohrn-van Rossum, History of the Hour: Clocks and Modern Temporal Orders (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996), 8.

[6] . Ibid, 125, 245-51.

[7] . Hillel Schwartz, Century's End: A Cultural History of the Fin-De-Siècle from the 990s through the 1990s, 1st ed. (New York: Doubleday, 1990), 123.


[9] . Reinhart Koselleck, Futures Past: On the Semantics of Historical Time (New York: Columbia University Press, 2004), 246.

[10] . Alain Schnapp, The Discovery of the Past (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1997).

[11] . Michel Foucault, The Order of Things; an Archaeology of the Human Sciences (New York: Vintage Books, 1973), 217-20.

[12] . Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The Communist Manifesto, Penguin Classics (London: Penguin Books, 2002), 223.

[13] . Stephen Toumlin and June Goodfield, The Discovery of Time (New York Harper & Row, 1965), 232.

[14] . On eschatology and modernism, see Colin Rowe, The Architecture of Good Intentions: Towards a Possible Retrospect (London: Academy, 1994).

[15] . Michel Foucault, "What Is an Author?," in The Foucault Reader, ed. Paul Rabinow (New York: Pantheon Books, 1984), 114.

[16] . The End of Temporality, 4. See also Arno J. Mayer, The Persistence of the Old Regime: Europe to the Great War (New York: Pantheon Books, 1981).

[17] . Chapter Two ? Le Goff and Jean-Maurice de Montremy, My Quest for the Middle Ages. trans. Richard Veasey (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006), * * *.

[18] . Louis Wirth, "Urbanism as a Way of Life," The American Journal of Sociology XLIV, no. 1 (1938): 10. Nora, "General Introduction" in Pierre Nora, Rethinking France (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001), xi, .

[19] . Michelet writes "Chaque époque rêve la suivante" in "Avenir! Avenir!" Europe 19, no. 73 (January 15, 1929), 6. Walter Benjamin, The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility, and Other Writings on Media (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2008), 97, 109.

[20] . Stephen Kern, The Culture of Time and Space 1880-1918 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1983), 57.

[21] . Ernst Bloch, Heritage of Our Times (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991). See also The End of Temporality.

[22] . P Anderson, "Modernity and Revolution," New Left Review 144, no. 96 (1984): 102.

[23] . In March 2010, I conducted a search of books at Columbia University's online library catalog that revealed 166 titles before 1980 with the word "modernism" in the title and 1376 titles since 1980 that contained the word in the title. Also, the reduction of late nineteenth and early twentieth century movements to "modernism" happens initially not at the hands of the postmodernists, but in the hands of Marshall Berman, himself a defender of modernism. See Robert Wohl, "Heart of Darkness: Modernism and Its Historians," The Journal of Modern History 74(2002). and Anderson, "Modernity and Revolution."

[24] . Walter Benjamin, Illuminations, [1st ed. (New York,: Harcourt, 1968), 257.

[25] . T. J. Clark, Farewell to an Idea: Episodes from a History of Modernism (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999), 3-9.

[26] . Daniel Bell, The End of Ideology; on the Exhaustion of Political Ideas in the Fifties (Glencoe, Ill,: Free Press, 1960).

[27] . Jameson, Postmodernism, or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, xxi, 35-36.

The Persistence of History Under Postmodernism

Employing intensity as a model of historical succession allows us to leave behind postmodernism's account of itself as a rupture with modernism to see it instead as a state in which culture is resynchronized with a modernized world. [1] Turning to Jameson's reading of postmodernism as the cultural logic of late capitalism, we can understand it as the era after transactions between culture and capital reach a tipping point and culture ceases to be a refuge from economy. In Jameson's model, with everything subject to being quantified and exchangeable for money or other items, there can be no exterior to capital, no place from which to critique or observe it. As a consequence, postmodern culture loses all meaning, any existential ground outside the market. Depth, and with it emotion, vanishes, to be replaced by surface effects and intensities. In this condition, even alienation is no longer possible. The subject becomes schizophrenic, lost in late capital's hyperspace.

Art under postmodernism is not just an industry but an investment market, and artists react by intermingling the high and low. With the art market demanding easy reproducibility and marketing and with authenticity and autonomy bankrupt as viable places of resistance, some artists begin to play with simulation and reproduction. Others, finding themselves unable to reflect directly on the condition of late capital but still wanting to comment on it, turned to allegory, foregrounding the fragmentary and incomplete nature of their work.[2]

With modernization complete, a historical progression towards a telos no longer makes sense. Read in this light, the postmodern attack on periodization and on master narratives changes from a decisive historiographic victory to a symptom of changed conditions. Take Jean-François Lyotard's definition of postmodernism as the product of the exhaustion of metanarratives, those historical arguments that modern forms of knowledge-such as science, philosophy, government, or economics-relied upon to legitimate their authority. Lyotard argues that growing scientific knowledge not only discredits the metaphysical positions these narratives are based on, its highly specialized nature means that knowledge is fragmented into a myriad of heterogeneous and incommensurable discourses. Postmodernism, he concludes, is "an incredulity toward metanarratives." [3]

But for Jameson, postmodernism's loss of historical grounding isn't limited to metanarratives: postmodern culture as a whole is defined by the "waning of historicity."[4] Irretrievably ruptured by modernization's end, history ceases to not only be a source of legitimacy, it ceases to be a lived reality. So if we follow Clark to admit that modernity is postmodernism's antiquity, any lived relationship to a deeper past is lost for good. More than that, Leo Marx observes, under postmodernism, progress is no longer assured. [5] Between 1960 and 1990, relatively slow technological advancement marks everyday life while continued environmental degradation, the end of the postwar boom, and the collapse of industry in much of the developed world hint that progress itself may have come to an end.

Jameson observes that unlike the moderns, postmoderns are more distracted, observing the new, but not making much of it. If postmodernism abandons historical narratives, save for the break with modernism, it still obsessively seeks to understand itself as a historical condition through theoretical means. No matter how damaged, history is fundamental to postmodernism. Unable to embrace progress or accept telos in historical narrative, postmodernist theory turns modernism's screws tighter, exacerbating the contradiction at root of modernism's historical conception of itself. Take the sentence with which Jameson opens up his book Postmodernism, or the Logic of Late Capitalism: "It is safest to grasp the concept of the postmodern as an attempt to think the present historically in an age that has forgotten how to think historically in the first place." [6]

As its architectural manifestation shows, postmodernism's break with the teleological history of modernism manifests itself as nostalgia for the outmoded and with the heroic period of modernism as well as with antiques and thrift store chic. Retro spreads through films such as Chinatown, American Graffiti, Grease, Animal House, the Sting, or Ragtime. Even science fiction appeals to the past by referring to earlier genres, such as the 1930s Flash Gordon serials that George Lucas emulates in Star Wars or the Hollywood noir that Ridley Scott recapitulates in Blade Runner.[7]

With Ezra Pound's injunction to "make it new" suspect and new technologies of reproduction emerging, appropriation becomes a key aspect of postmodernism with many artists adopting the role of Roland Barthes's mythographer, taking entire signs (that is, a signifier-signified pair) to reduce them to signifiers as a means of demystifying ideological beliefs. Thus, in reappropriating the Farm Security Administration photographs of rural white farmers in the American south by Walker Evans, Sherri Levine reframes them, challenging both the construction of artistic authenticity and Evans's own reduction of poverty to formal qualities while in her Untitled Film Stills Cindy Sherman points to a complex web of desire, social construction, and filmic genre that underscores the postmodern subject's existence in a thoroughly mediatized condition. [8] The architectural parallel is the mannerist appropriation of the formal language of the heroic modernism of the 1920s by the New York Five as well as by Rem Koolhaas, Bernard Tschumi, and Zaha Hadid. For all of these architects, the forms and imagery to point to the loss of the Utopian impulse in modernism.

Like modernism, postmodernism is hardly monolithic: a conservative strain promises to suture over the rifts of modernity and return to tradition even as populists seek a rapprochement between architecture and everyday life in the free combination of elements from history and popular culture. Jencks, the foremost proponent of populist postmodernism, describes the latter as double-coded, setting out to communicate with its public even as it addresses an architectural audience through a game of quotation.[9]

Whatever its allegiances, postmodernism operates in the wake of a doubled trauma, both the rupture with the modern and the modernism's break with history. Perhaps a need to reconstruct totality in the wake of trauma forces postmodernism to periodization, but either way Jameson, Lyotard, and the other postmodernists forge a new master narrative around networks of multinational capitalism.[10] Moreover, by embracing theory as a more complete form of demystification than historiography ever could be, postmodernism takes on the mantle of a master narrative, replaying yet again the Enlightenment idea of liberation through rational discourse and demystification.

That networks underlie postmodernism only demonstrates the mechanism of Michelet's dream at work again. The role of networks could only be anticipated in postmodern culture, the Internet still confined to small circles, not yet privatized or significantly colonized by capital and mobile technology was still new.[11] Moreover, the complicated nature of network culture-for example, the growth of open source software, the rise of knowledge workers, the widespread piracy of informational commodities, the importance of bottom-up production, and the rapid decline of traditional informational industries such as newspapers-could not yet be foreseen. In the end, just as postmodernity emerges only when the process of modernization is complete, network society can only come after postmodernity has run its course. Today the fragmentation of the sign, the end of the subject, and the dissolution of any sense of authenticity in media are not traumatic conditions to work through but rather fait accompli. If postmodernism celebrates the shattering of the subject, network culture takes that shattering as a given.

Network culture eschews rupture, its atemporality intensifying attitudes anticipated-but not realized-within modernism and postmodernism. Where postmodernism seeks the Oedipal theater of overturning modernism, network culture just doesn't care. Postmodernism is extinguished, but its disappearance takes place with neither a celebration nor a whimper.

Instead of returning to the heroic avant-garde as the New York Five or their counterparts at the Architectural Association did, network culture turns towards a gentle, domestic modernism. With modernism's utopian claims long forgotten, architecture becomes a pleasant and relaxing way of life, a neutral and neutered style for an oversaturated world populated with high-tech objects. Where the computers of the 1980s and 1990s were beige boxes with rounded corners that seek to hide their technological origins, the industrial designs of the iconic computers of our day are modernist, epitomized by the polished aluminum and black glass surfaces of Jonathan Ive, the head of design at Apple Computer who unabashedly derives his designs from the work of Dieter Rams at Braun.[12] But neo-modernism under network culture lacks either nostalgia or utopian ambition. It is decorative not symbolic: today neo-modernism, tomorrow mid-twentieth-century hunting lodge or French country style. The postmodernist idea of style as fashion returns, but any sense of positioning within temporality is foreign. The British firm FAT-Fashion Architecture Taste-are the foremost exponents of this turn, deploying figurative and eclectic forms to tweak the remaining boundaries of taste and vulgarity.

Domestic modernism is accompanied by the virtuoso architectural performances of iconic monuments. Where modernist monuments pointed to a fully modernized future, today's iconic buildings point only to their own shape, at most celebrating the technological difficulty of their construction. Far from Bruno Taut's statdtkrone, such structures don't act as a collective focal point for a city or a transformation of the order around them but rather symbolize that the city around them is plugged in globally, its business leaders hip enough to cater to the creative class. Created entirely within computer software, such buildings are a physical realization of the arcologies that William Gibson describes in Neuromancer, erupting into the city as markers of informational wealth.

Still, there is a peculiar connection between network culture and temporality: progress has come back. With the rapid pace of technological changes of the last decades we have ample reason to believe that the future will be different as a result of technology. Our version of the new is denatured, a fascination with fashion and new technologies, not the transformative promise of modernism. Rather than affirming our connection to the modern, neo-modernism only shows our distance from it.

[1] . Nealon, Foucault Beyond Foucault: Power and Its Intensifications since 1984, 32-48, 57-67.

[2] . Jameson, Postmodernism, or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, 1-54.

[3] . Jean-François Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984), xxiii-xxiv, 3.

[4] . Jameson, Postmodernism, or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. 21

[5] . Leo Marx, "The Idea Of "Technology" And Postmodern Pessimissm," in Does Technology Drive History? The Dilemma of Technological Determinism, ed. Merritt Roe Smith and Leo Marx (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1994).

[6] . Jameson, Postmodernism, or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism.

[7] . Ibid, 19.

[8] . "Cindy Sherman (Untitled)" in Rosalind E. Krauss, Bachelors (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1999), 101-60.

[9] . Jencks, The Language of Post-Modern Architecture.

[10] . Marx, "The Idea Of "Technology" And Postmodern Pessimissm," 256.

[11] . But see also Mark Wigley, "Network Fever," Grey Room (2001). on the interest in networks during late modernism. Note also that I do not mean to say that network culture is somehow the product of Necessity or telos or that it is the only direction that these periods could have taken.

[12] . Jesus Diaz, "1960s Braun Products Hold the Secrets to Apple's Future," Gizmodo,

The End of History, Again

Even as historians abandon master narratives and other disciplines turning away from historical models of explanation, a historical narrative is still subtly in play, this time as a means of legitimating neoliberalism. In this model, given form by Francis Fukuyama in his book The End of History and the Last Man, the end of history validates Margaret Thatcher's slogan "There is no alternative." But where the postmodernist Thatcher is insisting on neoliberalism as the only operative political position, Fukuyama and the neoliberals of our day argue that all other alternatives are shut down. For Fukuyama, Hegel's idea of history as progress comes to an end after the collapse of Communism and the worldwide adoption of neoliberalism as a political ideology.[1]

Jean Baudrillard, too, suggests that history has come to an end with the collapse of Communism, although he sees it causing the exhaustion of meaning and the heat death of civilization. Bereft of any direction toward an alternative or a future, Baudrillard concludes, history inevitably starts counting down toward the only remaining reference point, the only final possible moment of collective historical consciousness, the millennium. With the countdown complete, history expires and any sense of sequence is utterly undone: "the history of this century has already come to an end, because we are reliving it interminably and because, therefore, metaphorically speaking, we shall never pass on into the future."[2] 2000, for Baudrillard is not an end, but rather stands for the "illusion of the end." [3]

Beyond the collapse of the East bloc, Baudrillard sees the end of history as the product of the oversaturation of information: the endless, rapid circulation of signs undoes our capacity to make meaning out of life and prevents us from ordering time. Baudrillard explains

Now, through the impulse for total dissemination and circulation, every event is granted its own liberation; every fact becomes atomic, nuclear, and pursues its trajectory into the void. In order to be disseminated to infinity, it has to be fragmented like a particle. … No human language can withstand the speed of light. No event can withstand acceleration. No history can withstand the centrifugation of facts or their being short-circuited in real time…[4]

If both the contemporary city and information storage technologies produce hyperdensity, the omnipresence of the network, the spread of globalization, and the urbanization of the globe lead to a condition of equivocation, of horizontal spread and sameness. Information is simultaneously overdense and overdispersed. With everything available to us, our reaction is indifference. The wealth of "real time" information only amplifies this, Baudrillard concludes: "if we want immediate enjoyment of the event, if we want to experience it at the instant of its occurrence, as if we were there, this is because we no longer have any confidence in the meaning or purpose of the event." [5]

For Baudrillard, the closure of history marks not the triumph of the fittest but the onset of an era of "obscenity," governed by "an endless, unbridled proliferation of the social, of the political, of information, of the economic, of the aesthetic, not to mention, of course, the sexual." In this oversaturated condition, the result is nothingness, in which concepts can't be formed. [6]

Compelling as Baudrillard's analysis is, it leaves us with little prospect of analyzing network culture. Our ability to sequence time is undone, but this doesn't mean that we cease to exist. As Sterling suggests, network culture isn't a nihilistic chaos, it has distinct cultural manifestations produced by the collapse of the past and the future into the present. Such temporality may best be represented by the television show Lost in which the temporal sequence of the narrative is undone in a series of flashbacks and flashforwards. Instead of postmodern hyperspace, we have network culture's hypertime. Take the cinematic Matrix trilogy, in which the present is only a simulation produced by a dystopian future or novels like Pattern Recognition, Spook Country, and Zero History, cyberpunk author William Gibson turns away from projecting the future to carefully describing the just-past, a year or two before their date of publication. But network culture is marked less by science fiction and more by fantasy films such as the Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter. Where J. R. R. Tolkien's trilogy was an allegory for total war-remembered in the Second World War and feared in the Cold War-the cinema version is a simulation of an alternate reality, temporally out of sequence with ours.

Our new attitude toward the past is the product of a change in memory. New technologies make it possible for us to displace our memory into the database. The increase in inexpensive forms of data storage-both in terms of free online e-mail services with high storage quotas and portable hard drives-allow us to keep records of everything. A particular event becomes unnecessary when it has been recorded in our e-mail program or calendar and can be recalled at a moment's notice. Much as Plato suggested that writing was simultaneously a poison and cure in allowing humans to record information on paper instead of committing it to memory, fast, inexpensive storage makes the past accessible to us even as it undoes our need to conceptualize it in our heads. We no longer have to remember what the past is like when we can see it in a proliferation of time-stamped digital images.

The changes in memory also affect the physical past: until the advent of the global market on the Internet, collecting traces of the past required effort and threatened failure. The past hid in used bookstores and antique shops, necessitating that collectors seek out such places. Today, however, the past is readily available via eBay and other online venues. Generations of historians have scoured the world's archives. The past no longer waits to be discovered and exposed, it becomes a matter of connoisseurship instead. This is the past we see in the television show Mad Men, in which the historical reconstruction is not so much a matter of nostalgia as of a game of obsessive reconstruction, which is then immediately annotated and, as necessary, corrected at Web sites like the Footnotes of Mad Men.[7]

Under network culture, the past is revealed as ambiance, an environmental quality to be experienced. Take fashion, for example: the late 1990s and early 2000s are dominated by the supermodernist approach of haute-couture firms like Prada, Dolce and Gabbana, and Gucci, which used new fabrics and methods to produce clothing designed with performance in mind, but during the later part of the 2000s, fashion turns toward heritage, reviving classic brands like Filson, L. L. Bean, and Land's End, thereby turning obsolescence into commodified "trad." Unlike the 1980s preppy movement, this heritage turn makes no claim to class status or to continuity with existing traditions. Rather its fitted cuts indicate the arrival on American shores of a fascination with Ivy-League-college life that first emerges in Japan in the 1960s. [8] Although the heritage fashion movement relies on an obsessive knowledge of vintage styles, materials and techniques only possible under network culture, the past has also been thoroughly remade: items re-created with painstaking detail even as unfashionable flaws are removed, materials and cuts improved. The poverty of the past is as foreign to us as the smell of cigarette smoke that would have filled the offices of Sterling Cooper.

In our day, Bruno Latour writes

… we have changed time so completely that we have shifted from the time of Time to the time of Simultaneity. Nothing, it seems, accepts to simply reside in the past, and no one feels intimidated any more by the adjectives "irrational," "backward" or "archaic". Time, the bygone time of cataclysmic substitution, has suddenly become something that neither the Left nor the Right seems to have been fully prepared to encounter: a monstrous time, the time of cohabitation. Everything has become contemporary.[9]

Our everyday experience of temporality has changed. Through the Internet, computers and mobile phones synchronize their internal clocks to accurate timeservers, establishing a common time with a degree of precision that only recently was reserved for scientists and the military.

This new degree of precision belies the looseness that technology makes possible. The strict regimentation of time under modernity-represented first by the pocket watch and then by the wristwatch-is undone. Modernity is marked by the rise of bureaucratized culture, timetables, schedules, event, appointments and the measure of time, a rationalized temporality from the railway station to everyday life. Although the omnipresent display of time on computer screens and cell phones may suggest a surfeit of time, mobile telephony also undoes the practical need for precise scheduling. Instead of planning to meet each other at a precise time and place, friends can easily make rough plans to meet and then get in touch with each other to coordinate the logistics, even choosing a time and a place while in transit. Mobile phones allow our schedules to soften: when running late, we can contact the other party to advise them. If time used to serve as a mediating device between two parties, mobile telephony allows more efficient continuous and direct contact between them.[10] With time both pervasive and more fluid, wristwatches are becoming superfluous, little more than fashion accessories.[11]

In part, the new looseness in time is due to the increasing demands of business for temporal flexibilty. The rigid modernist workday dissolves under network culture: constant on-the-go connectivity and globalization mean that the rigid division between work time and leisure time is undone. Workers take care of personal tasks and respond to personal e-mails during work time, but they are also asked to be always on call, always in touch. [12] In addition, a globalized world demands rapid response during what had previously been off hours, and for many, frequent travel across time zones. Instead of feeling prisoners to an inflexible system, workers are subject to oversaturation. [13] It's hardly any wonder that we lose the ability to sequence.

We can see the anti-temporal nature of network culture in its most distinct literary form, the blog. Organized as a Web site composed of a series of time-stamped posts, the newest first, older ones cascading downwards in reverse chronological order, blogs at first appear to have a temporal organization, but this is a ruse. By presenting material in reverse chronological order, blogs undo any potential narrative effect. In practice, one reads an unfamiliar blog in reverse, looking at the most recent post and then, if captivated, scrolling down a bit. Following a blog means catching it in mid-stream, skimming a little off the top and then adding it to an aggregator where it can be read in the future. Past entries are little more than an archive to direct traffic to the site via search engines.

Blogs are non-chronous: the precision of the time stamp is meaningless and, in general, bears little relationship to the actual chronological time (the exception being if the blog post corresponds directly to an event-generally a crisis of some sort-taking place in real time). Moreover, even the utility of the sequence is undone by uneven posting practices on different blogs. As one blogger posts much more than another, the latter's older posts may appear newer than the former's since greater frequency of posting ages older posts more rapidly. [14]

The changes in temporality that mark network culture are not without their effects for politics. When becoming is replaced by being, the possibility of transformation also disappears.[15] But where the reactionary strain in postmodernism stressed a return to family values, today we have left only what Mark Fisher dubs "capitalist realism." [16] The new realism eschews the need for legitimation or critique. It just is, positing no alternative. The critique of industrial society's homogeneity that was common in art under modernism and postmodernism is now absorbed into management theory, the alienated factory worker replaced by the knowledge worker with the "freedom" of job flexibility (which also means no benefits or job security) and the privilege of self-expression as a member of the creative class. [17]

[1] . Francis Fukuyama, The End of History and the Last Man (New York: Free Press, 1992), 211

[2] . Jean Baudrillard, "The End of the Millennium or the Countdown," Economy & Society 26, no. 4 (1997): 447. For Baudrillard, once the Bomb made it possible to conceive the end, our failure to destroy ourselves meant that "we ahve to get used to the idea thatthere is no end any longer, there will no longer be any end, that history itself has become interminable. Baudrillard, The Illusion of the End, 116.

[3] . Baudrillard, "The End of the Millennium or the Countdown," 450-51.

[4] . ---, The Illusion of the End, 2.

[5] . Ibid, 9.

[6] . ---, "The End of the Millennium or the Countdown," 451.

[8] . David Colman, "Dress Codes; The All-American Back from Japan," the New York Times, June 18, 2009,

[9] . Bruno Latour, "From Realpolitick to Dingpolitick or How to Make Things Public," Bruno Latour and Peter Weibel, Making Things Public: Atmospheres of Democracy (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2005), 30.

[10] . Richard Seyler Ling, The Mobile Connection: The Cell Phone's Impact on Society (San Francisco: Morgan Kaufmann, 2004), 73.

[11] . The result has been huge declines in recent sales, the watch market down 20% between 2005 and 2008 as timekeeping functions are absorbed by screens big and small. David Ho, "Tick. Tick. Tick. Will The Cell Phone Slay the Wristwatch?" Cox News Service (September 1, 2008),

[12] . Ling sees this as the most important aspect of mobile telephony Ling, 58.

[13] . Kenneth J. Gergen, The Saturated Self: Dilemmas of Identity in Contemporary Life (New York: Basic Books, 2000).

[14] . Eric Baumer, Mark Sueyoshi, and Bill Tomlison, "Exploring the Role of the Reader in the Activity of Blogging," inProceeding of the twenty-sixth annual SIGCHI conference on Human factors in computing systems. Florence, Italy: ACM, 2008,

[15] . Doreen B. Massey, Space, Place, and Gender (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1994), 119.

[16] . Mark Fisher, Capitalist Realism. Is There No Alternative (Hampshire, UK: Zero Books, 2009).

[17] . Luc Boltanski and Eve Chiapello, The New Spirit of Capitalism (New York: Verso, 2005).


Today's self emerges from the network, not so much a whole individual as a composite entity constituted out of the links it forms with others, a mix of known and unknown others it links to via the Net.[1] As its ground, instead of immediate, lived experience, the contemporary subject relies on the immediated real, a condition in which mediation is a given and life becomes a form of performance, constantly lived in a culture of exposure in exchange for self-affirming feedback. [2]

John Tomlinson comes to a similar conclusion about immediacy as the defining condition of twenty-first century life. Tomlinson observes that we've become accustomed to instant connection and rapid gratification. Our economy and work culture not only sustains but constantly accelerates this state. If this is still rather close to the mechanical speed of the moderns, he argues, immediacy also implies proximity, the disappearance of a middle term (Tomlinson observes that the Latin "immediatus" means not separated). Under network culture we experience the "'closure of the gap' that has historically separated now from later, here from elsewhere, desire from satisfaction," the gap that was the very aim of modernization to close. Invoking Zygmunt Bauman's idea of a "fluid modernity," Tomlinson posits that the melting of solids is no longer just a stage on the way to a newer condition, but rather is an end in itself. Tomlinson concludes, as I do, that immediacy invokes the powerful role of media in the way we shape our lives. Although these last two terms appear contradictory, he writes, electronic media hide their status as media, seeking to become a seamless part of lived experience.[3]

The collapse of time has also led to crisis in capital, which always relied on temporal progression for its profit model. Postmodernity marks not only the end of modernization, it marks the end of manufacturing as the dominant sector of capital. Network culture, in turn, marks the end of knowledge work and the service industries. Like industry, these couldn't offer enough profit for spectaculars demanding ever-accelerating rates of return. Instead, capital is dominated by financialization, investment aiming to produce profit with no intermediary commodity. Today, Marx's old model of M-C-M' becomes M-M'.[4] At the highest levels, the levels that dominate the economy, capital is speculative, a game of time given over to ultra-high speed networks.

With capital unable to rely on tried temporal models, crisis results. During both the bubble that marked the start of network culture and the more recent real estate bubble, analysts ran economic models that discounted older data, feeding their models only information from the recent past, leading to the conclusion that prices of securities or real estate could only go up. [5] Since these models proved faulty, capital now turns to new forms of trading that take advantage of the immediate present to extract profits at a speed that no human can process. High-frequency trading dominates the market, as investors in possession of massive amounts of capital seek to hide their trades by atomizing them over a short period of time with software that distributes the trades in minute quantities. Such investors hope to mask their decisions, thus taking advantage of lower buying and higher trading prices while algorithmic traders seek to identify high frequency trades, buying and sell shares to produce profit at the expense of the high frequency traders. All this takes place at the level of milliseconds. With 70% of trading now high frequency or algorithmic, the exchange's trading floor becomes obsolete except as theater. No human can participate in such trading once they have given an overall command to buy or sell. Instead, computers talk to computers in data centers located at an intersection of real estate prices and network speed. The fastest algorithms, most-efficient machines, and lowest latency networks win. Time is all-important in trading today but it is a time at a scale no human can conceive of. We stand at the event-horizon of capital, at the point in which time is thoroughly compressed, unable to see any further. [6]

Regardless of whether network culture will lead to what Gopal Balakrishnan calls the "stationary state"-a protracted period dominated by a damaged capitalism, generating profits at ever higher levels of complexity-whether that complexity will lead to collapse, or whether as Sterling suggests, it will come to an end in a decade or so when we surpass it by learning to live more in tune with the network is still unclear. [7] Still, if our goal is to develop a political strategy for network culture or simply to find a way to map it, we need to face up to the temporal condition of the present and, as I have suggested in this essay, go against the grain to instead follow Jameson's imperative of dialectical thought: "Always historicize!" [8] For as Neo learns from the Oracle in Matrix Revolutions, "everything that has a beginning has an end."

[1] . Varnelis and Annenberg Center for Communication (University of Southern California), Networked Publics, 154. See also Kenneth J. Gergen, The Saturated Self: Dilemmas of Identity in Contemporary Life, (New York: Basic Books, 2000) and Brian Holmes, "The Flexible Personality. For A New Cultural Critique,"

[2] . This idea relies on Jean Baudrillard's concept of the simulation, but the simulation still holds out a premise that it is produced by the media industry for us to occupy indirectly. Immediated reality is produced by everyone, constantly.

[3] . John Tomlinson, The Culture of Speed. The Coming of Immediacy (London: Sage, 2007), 74-75, 99; Zygmunt Bauman, Liquid Modernity (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2000).

[4] . Nealon, Foucault Beyond Foucault: Power and Its Intensifications since 1984, 63. On the dominance of the economy by finance, see Kevin Phillips, Bad Money: Reckless Finance, Failed Politics, and the Global Crisis of American Capitalism (New York: Viking, 2009), xiii. and also chapter 6.

[5] . The article quotes economist Myron Scholes as saying that the analysts took a "view of the world that was far more benign than it was reasonable to take, emphasising recent inputs over more historic numbers," says Mr Scholes." See "Efficiency and Beyond," The Economist, July 16, 2009, .

[6] . Charles Duhigg, "Stock Traders Find Speed Pays, in Milliseconds," the New York Times, July 23, 2009,

[7] . Gopal Balakrishnan, "Speculations on the Stationary State," The New Left Review, no. 59 (2009).

[8] . Jameson, The Political Unconscious. Narrative as a Socially Symbolic Act, ix.


2. Space. Pervasive Simultaneity and the Financialization of Everyday Life

Two shows of architecture at the Museum of Modern Art-"Light Construction" of 1996 and the "Unprivate House" of 1999-inaugurate the supermodernism in architecture and design that marks network culture. Developed by the museum's curator of architecture and design Terence Riley, these shows brought an end to the tradition of formalism and language in architecture that the museum helped bring into being with its 1966 publication of Robert Venturi's Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture.[1] This new modernism lacks any desire for complexity or linguistics, instead demonstrating fascination with simple shapes, with materials and transparency, with the performance of the structure itself. Epitomized by the magazines Wallpaper* and Dwell, such spatially embodies network culture's promise that technology, openness, and individuality have at last brought us happiness, reconciliation with modernity.

But this is happiness for the few. Stripped of its utopian aspiration, supermodernism has become a sink for overaccumulated wealth. Worker housing has all but vanished, often literally dismantled or privatized. Instead, network culture is marked by the luxury condominiums and cultural centers (museums, concert halls) that rose across global cities worldwide during the real estate boom of the 2000s. Here, however the transparency of light construction is a ruse. The -supermodern skyscraper is not transparent but opaque; behind the transparent façade lies the machinery of financialization that made it possible.

As much as supermodern architecture design is associated with the lifestyle of a global élite, supermodern product design is associated with mobile, networked technologies. Drawing on the work of Ulm School designer Dieter Rams for inspiration, Apple Computer's lead designer Jonathan Ive utilizes new materials and technologies such as composite polymers and mutual capacitance multitouch screens to create high performance products that mask their complex technological nature.

Ive's designs for the iPod and the iPhone are network culture's icons, much as the Model T Ford or the Boeing 707 were icons of their time. Just as the earlier machines produced mobility, so do ours: mobile, networked technology allows most members of developed societies to compress space in a way reserved until recently for the media, government, and élite. In so doing opened it opens up a new phenomenological space.

Mobile technologies allow us to disconnect from the world around us so that we may instead connect with individuals at a distance or, alternatively, with software agents residing either in our mobile devices or in the networked cloud (as data speeds rise, the difference between local and remote applications and data is becoming unclear). Although sometimes this disconnect with our surroundings is a matter of lament, more frequently it is a deliberate choice, a way to fill something we lack in space that surrounds us. If sometimes we use such technologies to augment immediate space-looking up the address of a destination on a map, calling a friend to triangulate a meeting place while in route-more often we employ them to distance ourselves-reading and writing e-mail, updating a social media site, immersing ourselves in a soundtrack of our own choosing with portable music players.

Introduced in October 2001, the iPod was a runaway success worldwide. That it succeeded even though it was released just a month after the 9/11 attacks to a generally depressed consumer mood and a dismal economy points to its significance. By allowing individuals to paint the world with an emotional soundscape, it allows them to subject it to their control, making it familiar through the recognizable sounds it reproduces. Technology, it seems, could overcome alienation.

Just as financialization is a mutation in the production of value from space, this disconnect is a mutation in social space. To understand the significance of both, however we need to compare them with earlier spatial experiences. Again, I'll begin with the hypothesis that intensification is an appropriate model of historical succession. Our own condition exacerbates the experiences of simultaneity and abstraction that first emerged under modernity. Nor should we be surprised about its relationship to the space of postmodernity: just as that period was marked by a fragmented, schizophrenic space, under network culture it is not so much the experience of space that has fragmented as space itself that has splintered, becoming discontinuous and multiform.

To discuss space in historical terms, Henri Lefebvre's The Production of Space still seems the most workable starting point.There, Lefebvre identifies three successive spatial regimes: absolute space, historical space, and abstract space. [2] In the regime of absolute space, humans value spaces for their natural qualities, defining them as sacred, only to obliterate their natural characteristics with constructions and interventions. Historical space evolves out of absolute space, as humans value spaces that have been the object of accumulated human habitation and events. The most recent of the three, abstract space, emerges when humans quantify territory, assigning value through capitalist and bureaucratic organizations. Throughout, spatial regimes build upon spatial regimes. Thus the spring from which a local people drew fresh water becomes sacred and a temple is built upon it. When the people are converted, Christians obliterate the pagan temple, build a cathedral on the site, and centuries later wonder why the foundations are sinking. By then, however, the buildable area facing the square in front of the Cathedral is the object of increasing speculation by land developers. [3]

Lefebvre's thesis is that "(social) space is a (social) product," that space is not a cultural superstructure determined by a mode of production, but rather a construction that is both produced within a society and serves to reproduce that society. Just as a society's conception of space is influenced by the way that economic forces shape it, it is also an agent of its own that impacts the development of such forces. [4] So, if in modernity, the Cartesian grid gives value to land, the claim to map the world accurately emerges first not in the economy but rather in art and science, through the invention of perspective, the Cartesian grid, and grid-based cartography.[5]

Abstract space, Lefebvre writes, subordinates all spatial models to its inexorable, mathematical logic. [6] But abstract space is a process, not an end point; rather than a homogeneous condition, it is the process of creating spatial homogenization, producing a form of space based on value. [7] In making the world exchangeable, abstraction is fundamental for investment, trade, and management, allowing machines and humans to be interchangeable and interoperable, not just within their respective categories, but between them as well. Abstraction unmoores objects and individuals from their contexts, allowing them to circulate freely, traded for their exchange-value. Where under feudalism, wealth had been concrete-land, buildings, animals, and treasure-and ritualistic-legitimized by religion and bloodlines-under capitalism, abstraction makes wealth quantifiable, liquid, and readily tradable.

Take, for example the grid that covers the American landscape. In his Land Ordnance Act of 1785, Thomas Jefferson divided the country into one-mile-square units that were in turn subdividable into smaller units for homesteads. Philip Fisher describes the result as a "Cartesian social space, identical from point to point and potentially unlimited in extent." Instead of a place being defined by its natural characteristics and history, under the Land Ordnance Act, a place's identity derives from its location within the geometry of the grid. To claim a piece of land, settlers had to realize its value, marking off its boundaries and using it gainfully. But this system isn't merely conceptual, rather it is inscribed upon the land by means of roads. Mobility is inherent to abstract space, as is the uniformity it distributes across the grid. With an efficient transport system and the development of mass production, Fisher concludes, that sameness proliferates as identical products are transferred across the country to populate homes on the grid-the Singer sewing machine, the Ford Model T, and the television-while identical institutions-post offices, chain grocery stores, and gas stations-provide a homogenous infrastructure.[8]

[1] . Robert Venturi, Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture, Museum of Modern Art Papers on Architecture (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1966). Terence Riley and Museum of Modern Art (New York N.Y.), Light Construction (New York: Museum of Modern Art: Distributed by Harry N. Abrams, 1995); ---, The Un-Private House (New York: Museum of Modern Art: Distributed by H.N. Abrams, 1999).

[2] . Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space, trans. Donald Nicholson-Smith, La production de l'espace copyright Editions Anthropos 1974, 1984 ed. (Oxford, UK and Cambridge, Massachusetts: Basil Blackwell Ltd, 1991), 47-53.

[3] . Ibid, 26.

[4] . Ibid.

[5] . To be clear, the grid also emerged because of needs developed in earlier forms of land valuation-for example Alberti's map of Rome was for the use of Pope Nicholas V-or in military applications. Compare with Lefebvre's discussion of the invention of perspective, which he attributes to a space emerging out of the Tuscan reconstruction of the relationship of the town and the country. Ibid, 78.

[6] . Ibid, 49-50.

[7] . Ibid, 287.

[8] . Philip Fisher, "Democratic Social Space: Whitman, Melville, and the Promise of American Transparency," Representations (1988).

Mobility and the Metropolis

Still, the grid and abstract space do not reach their full potential in the countryside; they realize it in the metropolis. Nowhere is this clearer than in Manhattan where a commission of state officials gridded the majority of the island into uniform-sized blocks using twelve avenues and 155 cross streets in their map of 1811. The result was unprecedented growth as speculators rushed to develop land on the limited territory. An endless stretch of city blocks echoed the landscape emerging on the continent but did so even more incessantly, street names replaced by simple numerical designations.

Riding over any local topography, the Manhattan grid is a victory of abstract geometry over the particularities of place. In so doing, it acts as a disciplinary machine both making legible the rationalization of the city and enacting its effects on the individual. [1] The mathematics of the city grid affirm that the city is a Cartesian and capitalist place, a world in which place is replaced by real estate. Visiting in 1864, one Frenchman observes "a city where the streets are numbers is like … a vast hotel open to anyone who comes along, where only money distinguishes one man from another."[2]

Nor was his an uncommon sentiment about the metropolis. Georg Simmel, in "the Metropolis and Mental Life," notes that in the metropolis "money … becomes the frightful leveler-it hollows out the core of things, their peculiarities, their specific values and their uniqueness and incomparability in a way which is beyond repair." But there is hardly a choice in this overheated state, he claims, famously tying the metropolitan condition to human subjectivity. The countless human relations in the metropolis make it impossible for individuals to have relationships that aren't fleeting and anonymous. Even so, "the intensification of nervous stimulation" forces the metropolitan individual to shut down to become blasé or indifferent to the surroundings. Simmel's diagnosis parallels that of contemporary psychologists, such as George Beard, who in 1869 identifies the stresses of urban life as causing kinesthetic neurasthenia, an overstimulation leading individuals to turn apathetic, depressed, and withdrawn. [3]

The metropolitan subject is fundamentally transformed from its rural predecessor. Newcomers to the city, sociologist Ernest Burgess explains, undergo a process of disorganization in which their habitual ways are undone prior to experiencing a reorganization that makes them productive. This process allows immigrants from foreign lands and the countryside to become metropolitan subjects, but it also produces value for the city through the introduction of new ideas and new energies.[4] Instead of life-long, emotionally deep relationships with a few individuals, the modern subject maintains superficial relationships with a large number of individuals, managing them with the intellect. Anonymous exchanges governed by money ensure that they will stay matter-of-fact, subject to reason not emotion. The slapdash, idiosyncratic methods of handicraft are incompatible with the detailed work required by manufacturing. Instead, new habits of strict punctuality, meticulous calculation, and preciseness in all things assure the function of this system. [5]

Where the public life of the bourgeois individual is one of blasé anonymity, formality, rationality, and money relationships, private life centers around the family and the domestic interior, spaces of reproduction intended as refuges to the homogenizing, reifying space of the city. [6] These interiors represent the uniqueness of the self against the crushing nature of the metropolis, but read in Foucauldian terms, like the grid they also serve the era's disciplinary logic. Subjects learn to regulate themselves in a modern society through a series of institutional enclosures-factories, schools, barracks, hospitals, offices-all under the dominating force of inspection and the gaze that enforces its power over space.[7] If in the first group the gaze is external, in the home regulation happens from within, with the parents-who should have already internalized the need for responsibility and rational decision-making-ensuring order.

Mobility is the hallmark of modernity. Whether it is for economic or political reasons or to leave behind the shackles of tradition and an ancient world in its death throes, people left the familiar countryside for the city. Once there, seeking to escape the oppressiveness of the urban grid, the all-knowing gaze of familial surveillance, or simply hoping for a better life, they continued their restless motion. The rapid expansion of the American frontier was a product of such mobility, as Frederick Jackson Turner notes, the settler propelled out of the city by the ceaseless motion within it.[8] By the 1920s, sociologist Ernest Burgess observes mobility as the "pulse of a community." [9]

But abandoning the place that individuals hailed from was often a source of tension too. This was no small matter, producing homesickness, an affliction marked by a disconnect or alienation from the world that one inhabited, a painful and sometimes all-consuming desire to return to where one had come from. At the dawn of modernity, in 1688, upon tending to a young man on his deathbed, physician Johannes Hofer identified a disease that would strike migrants, merchants, and soldiers in faroff lands. Dubbing it nostalgia, he describes it as "a continuous vibration of animal spirits through those fibers of the middle brain in which the impressed traces of ideas of the Fatherland still cling." To venture far from home was to risk a certain, possibly fatal, illness. Thus disconnected, individuals would never reconnect. The nineteenth-century culture of domesticity that stressed the importance of the home exacerbated homesickness even as, for the first time, inexpensive postage made it possible for individuals to keep in contact. [10] Still, greater mobility was accompanied by loss, often profound loss, as painter Samuel F. B. Morse felt when, while far from home on a commission to paint Gilbert du Motier, the Marquis de Lafayette, he received a message that his wife had taken ill. Departing immediately for home, Morse arrived to find her dead and developed the telegraph to overcome such communicational delays in the future.

If alienation from the place one was in was due to homesickness for some, others sought comfort in religion, the promise that a harmonious and lasting place was to come. Still others-often after failed attempts to return home only to find that time had made the places they grew up in unrecognizable even as it had transformed them as well-immersed themselves in nostalgia, recreating or outrightly imagining traditions as a means of disconnecting from the world.

For the modernists, though, to disconnect meant a turn to another reality. In the face of the alienating effects that abstraction produced, one strain of the modernist avant-garde sought to harness those very forces. In this model, epitomized by the urban designs of Le Corbusier in the 1920s, abstraction could be utopian, overcoming the disjuncture that had emerged in technological society. The clarity of the vision embodied by the plan, in Corbusier's view, would marshal capital and politics toward an organized, productive end. For László Moholy-Nagy and Siegfried Giedion, abstraction is the basis for a new vision that would perceive space-time as a continuum. Designing for a world in which simultaneity was commonplace, they argued, overcomes the split between thinking and feeling (or, in disciplinary terms, science and art) that Friedrich Schiller observes emerging with the Enlightenment. Still, for other modernists, such as Pablo Picasso or Paul Klee, that same abstraction and simultaneity are not forces of reconciliation but rather sources of anxiety that art cathartically encounters through negation. Likewise for critics Theodor Adorno, Clement Greenberg, Arnold Schonberg, Jackson Pollock-and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (after the mid-1930s)-the autonomy of art is both a form of negation and a reality of its own. In all three cases, however, disconnection was a motive for many modernists, the role of art being to offer an alternate reality, projective, critical, or autonomous.

The new sense of space was inseparable from technology. For one, telecommunications allowed the metropolis to be the site of industrial production and management, enabling the coordination of shipments, remote management of resources (at least to a degree), and transmission of information worldwide. The growth of the city core or downtown was made possible by-and partly a response to-new technologies that prompted a managerial sector separate from spaces of production in outlying areas. But everyday life was also colored by a growing sense of simultaneity that space-time compression produced. With the invention of the telegraph and wireless radio, the moderns experienced the world as one for the first time. Within a day, events such as the Japanese defeat of the Russian Second Pacific Squadron at Tsushima in 1905 and the loss of the Titanic in 1912 were topics of discussion worldwide. But no matter how unnerving or liberating this sense of simultaneity, for most people it was largely a third-hand matter, experienced through the intervening media of newspapers, magazines, radio, or eventually television. Even if radio and television made it possible for individuals to listen to distant events in real time, throughout modernity life was still lived in proximate space. Well into the 1970s, for example, long-distance telephony was rarely used for personal reasons while international telephony only took off in the 1990s. [11]

The twentieth century brought simultaneity home through radio and television. More vividly than at the workplace, time-space compression entered into everyday life as distant events were shared collectively, in families and across societies. Individuals were subsumed into the mass, addressed by a media that perceived its audience as homogeneous, to be shaped by its messages. If the sense of the live broadcast was native to radio and television from the start, it remained one-way. Top-down, one-to-many media created a temporary sense of tele-presence but also left many individuals with a feeling it was fleeting, their disconnection from their surroundings leaving them more isolated and alone, passive rather than active, consumers rather than citizens. If radio and television replaced the piano and the fireplace as gathering points for the family, it seemed that they had also lost the role of the local connections.[12]

Turning back to the spatial economics of the city, however, overaccumulation-induced crisis eventually led to decentralization. During the Great Depression, overinvestment in real estate posed a problem to the sustainability of cities. Building stock in urban cores was expensive even as it aged and became obsolete. High land values and the need for developers to finish paying off existing, increasingly out-of-date structures posed a problem while congestion caused inefficiencies that further difficulties.[13] In the United States, capital began to seek more lucrative prospects for development in outlying areas, both secondary business districts and suburbs. After World War II a constellation of forces-economic, strategic, managerial, and cultural-combined with increased automobility to spur the growth of residences and workplaces in suburban areas. City cores began a long process of decay from which all but a few have not recovered.

By the 1950s, urban sprawl had grown to the point that geographer Jean Gottmann observed the emergence of megalopolis, a continuous urban region stretching from northern Virginia to southern New Hampshire.[14] Other regions soon followed: in the United States, Southern California; in Europe, Amsterdam-Brussels-Hannover and London-Leeds-Manchester; in Japan the Tokaido Corridor. Especially in the United States, but also in other such regions worldwide, manufacturing shifted toward outlying areas, still part of metropolitan or megalopolitan regions but no longer part of second cities. Instead, in this new postsuburban territory individuals who resided in suburbs would commute not to city cores but to other suburbs.[15]

With the economic restructuring of the final quarter of the twentieth century, flexible and diffuse forms of organization replaced rigid and hierarchical ones. Where earlier it was the factory that paved the way out of the city, processing, services, and some forms of management now followed. New studies of corporate communications encouraged managers to believe that the sort of horizontal office buildings that could be built in suburban areas were more efficient than the vertical skyscrapers of the city core. [16]

With less expensive land, an educated population less committed to unions-particularly in the American South and Southwest-and a supply of abundant part-time labor in housewives seeking flexible employment, suburbs were apt territories for the expansion of a new generation of businesses. Where cities like Phoenix and Houston thrived, it was precisely because of their lack of density: often they were less dense than the suburbs of older cities. But even this was only temporary as manufacturing decentralized further, contracting with suppliers in developing countries to fulfill contracts. In turn, older industrial cities in the developed world began to suffer: whether in the American rust belt or Northern England, decay set in rapidly after the world economy ran aground in the later 1960s. A decade of deterioration later and city cores-particularly those of these industrial cities-seemed to have had their day. Few were thriving. Most were in crisis.

But improbable as it might have seemed in the fall of 1975 when the New York Daily News's Headline read "Ford to City: Drop Dead," the city-or at the kind of global city that acted as a command and control center in the world economy-was at a turning point. The case of New York City, still the dominant metropolis in North America and in many ways the world, is again exemplary.

The crisis that precipitated the headline-the technical bankruptcy of the New York City and Republican President Gerald Ford's refusal to bail it out-is the product of numerous factors, most seriously decentralization and consequent declining tax revenues but also various bad decisions made in city government during the critical years. The high operating costs of manufacturing made decentralization more extreme in New York than many other places. As plants aged, corporations replaced them with new ones outside the city, initially in the suburbs but later in the South and then in developing countries. Compounding this, city officials seeking to remake Manhattan as a financial-managerial center as early as the 1950s finally succeeded in all but eliminating manufacturing in Manhattan and closing down its port, once the city's lifeblood. With the collapse of the postwar boom in the latter 1960s, city services rapidly came undone, increasing its decrepitude and the departure of wealth.

The one exception was the city's financial district, where overaccumulation by the financial industries-by the mid-1970s this would include petrodollars from the Middle East-led them to sink huge amounts of capital in construction, a last burst of vertical delirium that ensured the vested interest of world finance in the future of Manhattan real estate. Thus when the city faced crisis, the financial industry bailed it out-after all, not only was real estate at stake, so was the value of municipal bonds-but at the cost of new austerity measures that ensured that the social services it had once provided would be cut back drastically.

No matter how unique the condition, New York proved to be a model for other cities in America experiencing the problem of declining revenues. The message was clear: better to preemptively cut services rather than risk financial ruin. Nor was the fallout purely in the United States: worldwide, city governments began to turn away from their old constituency in a working-class public toward alliances with businesses. The postmodern cities that resulted were entrepreneurial, seeking to re-make themselves and market their attractions for competition on a global market and eager to work with the financial services corporations that provided them with crucial funds. That much has hardly changed to the present day. [17]

[1] . Reuben Skye Rose-Redwood, "Rationializing the Landscape: Superimposing the Grid Upon the Island of Manhattan" (Pennsylvania State University, 2002).

[2] . David M. Henkin, City Reading: Written Words and Public Spaces in Antebellum New York, Popular Cultures, Everyday Lives (New York: Columbia University Press, 1998), 36.

[3] . Anson Rabinbach, The Human Motor: Energy, Fatigue, and the Origins of Modernity (New York: Basic Books, 1990), 153.

[4] . Robert Ezra Park et al, The City, University of Chicago Sociological Series. (Chicago, Ill,: The University of Chicago press, 1928), 54.

[5] . Georg Simmel, David Frisby, and Mike Featherstone, Simmel on Culture: Selected Writings, Theory, Culture & Society (London ; Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications, 1997), 174-86.

[6] . Lefebvre, The Production of Space, 51-52.

[7] . Susan Sidlauskas, "Psyche and Sympathy: Staging Interiority in the Early Modern Home'," in Not at Home: The Suppression of Domesticity in Modern Art and Architecture, ed. Christopher Reed (London: Thames and Hudson, 1996), 65-80, Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, 1st American ed. (New York: Pantheon Books, 1977), 104-34.

[8] . Frederick Jackson Turner, The Frontier in American History (New York: Dover Publications, 1996).

[9] . Ernest Watson Burgess, "The Growth of the City: An Introduction to a Research Project," in The City, ed. Robert Ezra Park, et al. (Chicago: The University of Chicago press, 1928), 58.

[10] . Lowenthal, The Past Is a Foreign Country, 10. Susan J. Matt, "You Can't Go Home Again: Homesickness and Nostalgia in Us History," Journal of American History 94, no. 2 (2007).

[11] . See Harvey, The Condition of Postmodernity: An Enquiry into the Origins of Cultural Change. and Kern, The Culture of Time and Space 1880-1918.

[12] . On live television, see Jane Feuer, "The Concept of Live Television: Ontology as Ideology," in Regarding Television, ed. E. Ann Kaplan (Fredrick, MD: University Publications of America/American Film Institute, 1983).

[13] . Robert M. Fogelson, Downtown: Its Rise and Fall, 1880-1950 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001), 183-218.

[14] . Jean Gottmann, Megalopolis; the Urbanized Northeastern Seaboard of the United States (New York,: Twentieth Century Fund, 1961).

[15] . Rob Kling, Spencer C. Olin, and Mark Poster, Postsuburban California: The Transformation of Orange County since World War Ii (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991).

[16] . John F. Pile, Open Office Planning: A Handbook for Interior Designers and Architects (New York: Whitney Library of Design, 1978).

[17] . For the crisis in New York City see Kim Moody, From Welfare State to Real Estate: Regime Change in New York City, 1974 to the Present (New York: New Press: Distributed by W.W. Norton & Co, 2007). For the impact of the crisis on governance see David Harvey, A Brief History of Neoliberalism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005).

Globalization and Non-Place

When New York returned to financial viability in the later 1970s and early 1980s, it was as a paradigmatic example of what Saskia Sassen dubs "the global city." This resurgence of New York, and to a lesser degree, other regional centers in the 1980s was not at odds with decentralization, rather it expressed the same network logic. With industrial production shifting further and further out of cities, first into larger metropolitan regions then to outlying areas and offshore, specific places for financial production and control became necessary. The cores of these global cities, possessing advanced telecommunication facilities and full of financial institutions with large stakes in local real estate, wound up the new centers of global economic control.

But even as global cities thrived, many cities ran aground. As Sassen explains, the globalized network economy concentrates control and wealth in a handful of financial centers interconnected by telecommunications and air travel at the expense of others. [1] Thus, the nature of the network ensures that the urban renaissance of the global city takes place at the cost of other cities that see long-term sustained population declines. [2] Moreover, Sassen points out, this inequality is replicated on a local scale even within the global city: sectors supported by international finance and associated enterprises such as high-end hotels and restaurants eliminate other, less profitable or less glamorous activities, most notably manufacturing.[3]

Instead of the city as body or machine-the two metaphors that governed under modernity- under postmodernity, they turned into nodes on communications networks. Sassen explains: "The global functions of some areas of some cities are determined by their connection to the global networks of value making, financial transactions, managerial functions, or otherwise."[4] Power-law effects are endemic to networks, with connected nodes becoming ever more highly connected. As the global economic network itself seeks greater fluidity and the breakdown of barriers to trade and finance, the inexorable logic of the power-law suggests that makes the most connected nodes become more and more connected.

Although it has intensified under network culture, the basic formation of this new spatial agglomeration, as Sassen calls it, was in place by the mid-1980s and serves to define postmodern urbanism. Along with the massive growth in wealth and population in the global cities came growing inequality, notably in the developed world where the working class faced the end of a period of relatively stability. During the 1970s and 1980s, cities turned from places of production to places of reproduction as a small élite and a disenfranchised urban poor grew. Even as wealth flocked to the suburbs and industry fled abroad, neoliberal policies decimated urban social services while encouraging strategic gentrification and continual benefit to financial industries through tax incentives.

Los Angeles, Mike Davis's "City of Quartz" is the epitome of the postmodern city. There, the city became polarized between a vast, disenfranchised urban poor, dominantly latino or African-American and rich enclaves inhabited by the jet set. Facing repeated restructuring-induced uprisings an increasingly technological and aggressive police force led by Chief William Gates clamped down hard, something Rudolph Giuliani would also do as mayor of New York. Prison populations skyrocketed and the first world began to look increasingly like the third. Globalization, it turned out, would have a leveling effect across economies that would be catastrophic for many.[5]

Returning to Jameson's thesis about postmodernism as the cultural logic of late capitalism, the transition to a more globalized world marks the maturing of late capitalism. Jameson concludes that the result has distinct spatial consequences: where the modern subject often felt out of place, in an alienated or disconnected state, the postmodern subject cannot conceive of a position outside of the system. Instead, the postmodern subject is caught up in a hyperspace, lost in a Warholesque, affectless condition. Postmodernity, Jameson suggests, is a moment in which individuals-their perceptions formed under the architectural space of high modernism-have not yet learned how to live under late capitalism or how to map it, they still need to "grow new organs [and] expand our sensorium and our body to some new, yet unimaginable, perhaps utterly impossible dimensions." [6]

Although Jameson is a literary critic, architecture is, for him, the signal art of postmodernism, best embodying the new unmappable qualities of postmodern hyperspace, most vividly forcing us to confront our inability to map the world. To illustrate, he uses John Portman's Bonaventure hotel, a paradoxical building in that it is not postmodern but rather late modern in style. Here, Jameson suggests, the building's shimmering mirror-glass exterior invokes the computer and "machines of reproduction rather than of production." [7] But the façade also reflects the city, thus making its own exterior vanish. Instead of trying to address the urban texture, evacuated and damaged by modernist urban renewal strategies, the Bonaventure rejects any greater aspiration toward changing the urban condition. Instead, located next to the freeway, the building privileges its automotive entrance, its street-level pedestrian entrance difficult to find. The link to the freeway, together with the pedestrian ramps that connect the Bonaventure to the office buildings of the area ensure not only the building's disconnect from its immediate environment, but also connect it to a regime of multinational capital visible both in the surrounding towers (Davis's City of Quartz) and in an invisible hyperspace of the network of multinational capital. [8]

Inside the concrete lower plinth from which the Bonaventure's mirror-glass towers spring, a shopping mall and artificial landscape serve as stand-ins for the city, but their seemingly logical plan and inward-looking character generates a confusing condition that leaves visitors unable to find their way around. The Bonaventure's functional, modernist appearance thus belies the reality that its layout is impossible to navigate, a labyrinth of escalators, ramps, and interior walkways at different levels. Jameson concludes that the visitor's confusion in the interior of the Bonaventure replicates our inability to map postmodern hyperspace with our bodies: "It may now be suggested that this alarming disjunction point between the body and its built environment-which is to the initial bewilderment of the older modernism as the velocities of spacecraft are to those of the automobile-can itself stand as the symbol and analogon of that even sharper dilemma which is the incapacity of our minds, at least at present, to map the great global multinational and decentered communicational network in which we find ourselves caught as individual subjects." [9]

While Jameson's description of the Bonaventure corresponds to the subject's confusion amidst the networks of multinational capital, it is possible to also read that experience in literally, understanding it as an exemplary description of what anthropologist Marc Augé calls "non-place." In this light, Jameson's narrative becomes a phenomenological description of space forming under postmodernism. But although Augé writes on non-place roughly at same time as Jameson sets out his synthetic view of postmodernism, he sees postmodernism as a misunderstanding, dubbing the era "supermodernity." For Augé, it is not an end of meaning that produces our sense of meaningless, it is a surfeit of meaning: "supermodernity … is the face of a coin whose obverse represents postmodernity: the positive of a negative. From the viewpoint of supermodernity, the difficulty of thinking about time stems from the overabundance of events in the contemporary world, not from the collapse of an idea of progress…it is our need to understand the whole of the present that makes it difficult for us to give meaning to the recent past…" [10] Likewise, in terms of space, Augé understands supermodernity as produced by an overabundance of space. The more we travel and experience via media, the less we understand of space and the more we demand it to have a meaning.[11]

Supermodern space, Augé explains, differs from what he calls the preceding "Baudelarian modernity" in that it no longer carries traces of earlier forms of human habitation. Places are historically stable spaces made up out of social interactions between people. Within them memory accumulates to form historical meaning and is represented in symbolic meaning. But Augé observes a world increasingly dominated by non-places, spaces that "are not themselves anthropological places.[12] Unlike the Bonaventure, places allow humans to orient themselves spatially, but not merely navigationally: places are symbolic universes in which it becomes possible to understand one's own position in a broader societal context. As places disappear, life becomes a relentless procession through transitory spaces. Augé's subject is globalized, experiencing the purest form of deterritorialization, but non-place is not just produced in airport lounges and on highways, it is also found in everyday environments such as the space in front of the cathode ray tube, automated teller machines and supermarkets. Instead of symbolic meaning that emerges historically, non-place is filled with anonymous instructions: the disembodied voices of announcements and directions on electronic signs. Instead of dwelling collectively in public space, Augé suggests that we lead solitary lives.

The result, under both Jameson and Augé is that the modern disconnect with the environment becomes not so much an oddity as a constant condition, produced by the forces of mobility, capital, and globalization. But these texts still stand at the inauguration of a new era of globalization. To navigate that transition from postmodernity to network culture, it's worth turning back to postmodern architecture once more.

[1] . Saskia Sassen, The Global City: New York, London, Tokyo (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1991).

[2] . Philipp Oswalt and Kulturstiftung des Bundes, Shrinking Cities, 2 vols. (Ostfildern-Ruit [Germany] New York: Hatje Cantz; D.A.P./Distributed Art Publishers [distributor], 2005).

[3] . Saskia Sassen, Global Networks, Linked Cities (New York: Routledge, 2002), 17.

[4] . Castells, The Rise of the Network Society, xxxv.

[5] . Mike Davis, City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles (London ; New York: Verso, 1990).

[6] . Jameson, Postmodernism, or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, 38-39.

[7] . Ibid, 37.

[8] . On multinational capital, see Ibid, 14. More on the Bonaventure at ---, Postmodernism, or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, 39-42.

[9] . Jameson, Postmodernism, or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, 39, 44.

[10] . Marc Augé, Non-Places: Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity (London: Verso, 1995), 29-30.

[11] . Ibid, 31-32.

[12] . Ibid, 51-57.

From Symbolism to Silence

As I've noted, the Bonaventure is a rather odd choice for Jameson because it is a late modern building that did not engage in the aesthetic populism key to postmodernism, but it does embody a postmodern attitude toward the city.Indeed, even though Jameson suggests that the Bonaventure turns its back on the city, it is an attempt-as he recognizes-to intervene in the city's downtown. Ever since Rockefeller Center in the late 1930s, revitalizing American city cores-generally through the notorious strategy of urban renewal-had been a matter of concern for a significant part of the financial sector. By the 1950s, developers and politicians actively sought to make cities centers of management and culture, a move epitomized by Lincoln Center. Such projects were often not well-received, tending to be associated with big capital and a Fordist idea of elite culture. A notable (if controversial) exception was Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers's Centre Pompidou in Paris, but here the architects and the museum founder, Pontus Hulten, understood that it was key to make the museum a place that would not only dazzle visitors with its architecture and the works within, but also act as a center for neo-avant-garde happenings and for the production of new work. Portman's Bonaventure was one of his many efforts to revitalize city cores, most notably in Atlanta and in Detroit. The results of these were mixed, serving a business élite, unable to interface with the city.

More expressly postmodernist work, such as Charles Moore's Piazza d'Italia in New Orleans generally went awry quickly as well. For all of its intents to produce an accessible architecture, when postmodernism adopted classical elements, it rapidly became favored by businesses and institutions, thus coming to be associated with the same negative connotations as late modernism.[1] The problems with postmodernism-and its persistent link with an outmoded Fordism-are dramatized by the rise and (virtual) fall of Philip Johnson and John Burgee's AT&T headquarters.

Standing at an intersection of architecture, communications, and capital under postmodernity, AT&T has a special role for our purposes. One of the most expensive skyscrapers ever built, the AT&T headquarters was a vote of confidence in the city's future as a managerial center, a statement in the company's strategic interest given the tremendous investment they had already made into urban telecommunications at a time when the city's viability was in question. AT&T Chairman John DeButts's stated "We would like the building to say loud and clear, 'We love New York,'" referring to the newly-started Milton Glaser ad campaign. Beyond this affirmation of the city, the skyscraper had symbolic purposes. The references to colonial style symbolized the corporation's identity as "Ma Bell," referring to its argument that the company was a "natural monopoly" in its battle against the Department of Justice, which desired to break up the firm. Its monumental granite mass affirmed the corporation's self-confidence even though it had seen better days and was failing to deliver new returns for investors while more agile competitors began to nimble at its heels. Finally, just as Eero Saarinen's 1962 Bell Labs embodied the company's technological achievement in its mirror-glass façade, the headquarters reinscribed the role of the strong managerial center in the rigid, Fordist, vertically-integrated company to the employees.

But AT&T's attempt to cement its status failed. Even before the skyscraper opened AT&T was forced to divest itself of its monopoly over local telephone networks in a settlement with the government. Although the company rationalized the settlement as permitting it to expand its business into the personal computer market, the handwriting was on the wall. Unable to compete in a post-Fordist world, AT&T's computer venture failed and it rapidly ran into trouble in telecommunications as well. In 1992, the AT&T building would be sold to Sony, a symbolic defeat for the corporation. [2]

The AT&T Headquarters represented the attempt of a Fordist corporation to remake itself in postmodern clothes, but it marked a turning point for corporate headquarters. Thereafter, iconic form would become a problem. Leader of the radical Italian architecture group, Archizoom Andrea Branzi anticipates this turn in his prescient 1971 essay "The Fluid Metropolis." Branzi, describes skyscrapers as the product of an obsolete Fordist form of capitalism, the concentrated metropolitan core and the vertical skyline as "a diagram of the natural accumulation which has taken place of Capital itself. So the bourgeois metropolis remains mainly a visual place, and its experience remains tied to that type of communication." [3] But, Branzi argues-as Mandel and Jameson soon would as well-the world has been completely permeated by capital. The result would be an end to an exterior to capital: "the social organization of labour by means of Planning eliminates the empty space in which Capital expanded during its growth period. In fact, no reality exists any longer outside the system itself: the whole visual relationship with reality loses importance as there ceases to be any distance between the subject and the phenomenon. The city no longer 'represents' the system, but becomes the system itself, programmed and isotropic, and within the various functions are contained homogenously, without contradictions." Given the spread of urban culture through media and telematics, the need for the skyline as a representation of the city disappears: "The metropolis ceases to be a 'place,' to become a 'condition': in fact, it is just this condition which is made to circulate uniformly, through consumer products, in the social phenomenon. The future dimension of the metropolis coincides with that of the market itself."[4]

In other words, Branzi notes, with universal accessibility to consumer goods, the metropolis's concentrating function is undone. If capital no longer needs to represent itself to a non-capitalist, rural externality through the city, then the city, which encompasses the earth, can be refigured to become something else, the pure programming of "a social and physical reality completely continuous and undifferentiated." [5]

Under network culture, Branzi's prophecy is fulfilled; companies in finance and advanced technology have turned away from building iconic skyscrapers, building instead the sort of anonymous structures that his radical architecture group Archizoom proposed. The headquarters of technology companies like Apple, Intel, Google, and Microsoft are horizontal office structures, dull and interchangeable on the exterior, based in technoburbs filled with chain stores and restaurants. Gwendolyn Wright ties the change to the nature of the new industry: "The unnerving pace of Silicon Valley cannot easily accommodate the outward signs of permanence and legibility that have defined architecture throughout history. New technology becomes obsolete in approximately seven months. Companies are just as tenuous: half of them fail; others may expand or be bought out at a moment's notice. Under such circumstances, it seems foolish to invest much capital in architecture, which suggests permanence-with costs to match." [6]

Google is unique among these, sporting a uniquely-designed, playful interior at its Googleplex, but this interior is more of an extreme version of the amenities that such companies often provide to help employees identify the workplace with fun while the exterior is disposable. Advanced finance corporations similarly eschew high design, restricting themselves to generic skyscrapers. Even when, like Goldman Sachs, they chose to build new buildings, these have been studiously dull and generic.

That said, generic architecture became an object of interest among architects during the 1990s. In his book Supermodernism: Architecture in the Age of Globalization, Dutch critic Hans Ibelings observes the succession of both postmodern and deconstructivist form with an architecture of "superficiality and neutrality," adopting Augé's condition of non-place as not so much something to lament as a given. Looking at the work of architects like Jean Nouvel, Dominique Perrault, Phillippe Starck, OMA, Toyo Ito, Herzog & de Meuron and Kazuyo Sejima, Ibelings celebrates the way such architecture rejects postmodernism's nostalgia for place and emphasis on symbolism. In the supermodern world, he writes, "space itself is being steadily reduced to a zone that is traversed, an interval in a continuous movement interrupted at most for a brief stopover."[7] If postmodern architects like Michael Graves intend to evoke place, he explains, the constant circulation of their work around the world undoes that placeness, producing interventions that have nothing to do with the places that surround them.[8] Mobility, under supermodernism, had finally ended place.

Given that place is increasingly foreign to us, Ibelings argues, it is entirely appropriate for architects to instead seek to produce sensation through a play of surface and materials to sway the viewer.[9] Eschewing postmodernism's attempt to symbolize, supermodernism aspires to universality and is therefore expressionless and neutral, generally taking orthogonal form (the Box), but quite possibly also resembling sculptural objects (the Blob).[10]

Nor are architects alone in trying to embody this new sense of solitude. During the 1990s, members of the "Dusseldorf School" of photography, most notably Laurenz Berges, Frank Breuer, Elger Esser, Andreas Gursky, Candida Höfer, Axel Hütte, Thomas Ruff, and Thomas Struth-and even if he is an exception due to the constructed nature of his environments, Thomas Demand-turn to a sustained focus on non-places and architecture. Where their teachers, Bernd and Hilla Becher undertook studied investigations of typologies of dying industrial architecture, the Dusseldorf school photograph vast, outscale or otherwise empty spaces as a way to represent the delirium of the new space emerging around them.

Castells arrives at the same conclusion as Ibelings, that supermodern architecture embodies what he calls the "space of flows." Whereas postmodernism aspires toward irony, its carefree recombination of historical references and its placelessness ultimately convey the dominant ideology of the end of history. But postmodernism's reliance on transhistorical symbolism, Castells suggests, cripples its ability to embody the network society architecturally. Instead, this best manifests itself in the neutral architecture of supermodernism, "the architecture whose forms are so neutral, so pure, so diaphanous, that they do not pretend to say anything."[11]

By including postmodernist architecture in his discussion, Castells allows us to draw another conclusion, which is that postmodernism persists today because it speaks to a cultural class with different aspirations, to people who frequent shopping malls and "power centers" in second-rate suburbs and inhabit mcmansions or condos in second cities. Unlike modernism, supermodernism makes little claim to universality. This affirms that it isn't so much a return to modernism but rather a form of postmodernism intensified to a new level. Where postmodernism itself could not accommodate modernism and actively fought it, contemporary postmodernism and supermodernism coexist. Nowhere is this clearer then in the façades of shopping malls. Today the internal street of the mall is all but indistinguishable from the mallified city. Take for example, the similarity between the outdoor mall called "the Grove" in Los Angeles and the former street, now a mall known as "Third Street Promenade" in Santa Monica, or shopping districts like Beverly Hills's Rodeo Drive. In such places, supermodernism becomes merely decorative, serving only as a marker of brand. At the Grove, the supermodern Apple store, the retro-modern Puma women's store, and other stores dressed in styles from throughout history are all merely façades on one building, producing a constant variation of visual variety and brand identity. Even in the Apple store, the clash between the supermodern environment with its the Ulm School-inspired goods and the staff dressed in sloppy, eversized "genius" t-shirts produces dischord. That said, however, we need to step back again and remember that the Apple store is not a non-place but rather a networked place. Augé's non-places are transitional.

[1] . Mary McLeod, "Architecture and Politics in the Reagan Era: From Postmodernism to Deconstructivism," Assemblage, February 1989.

[2] . Kazys Varnelis, "Philip Johnson's Empire," in Philip Johnson: The Constancy of Change, ed. Emmanuel Petit (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009).

[3] . Archizoom Associates, "No-Stop City. Residential Parkings. Climatic Universal Sistem," Domus 496(1971): 54.

[4] . Ibid.: 53.

[5] . Ibid.: 54-55.

[6] . Gwendolyn Wright, "The Virtual Architecture of Silicon Valley," Journal of Architectural Education 54, no. 2 (2000).

[7] . Ibelings, Supermodernism: Architecture in the Age of Globalization, 64.

[8] . Ibid, 28.

[9] . Ibid, 133.

[10] . Ibid, 89.

[11] . Castells, The Rise of the Network Society, 449-50.


Capital Mobility and the Bilbao-Effect

A first determinant in the spatiality of network culture is the radical acceleration of globalization over the last two decades. Globalization escalated markedly after the collapse of the Soviet Union and free market reforms in China opened it up to the capitalist market. Neoliberalist trade policies are now embraced de facto throughout most of the world as corporations seek to improve profits. If Deleuze suggests that capitalism always strives to deterritorialize space and remake it into a smooth condition that it can traverse easily, there is little question that the promotion of globalization and trade deregulation over protectionist policies by advanced economies has been crucial to the advance of global trade. [1]

As capital has sought greater mobility, politicians have made capital mobility and the dismantling of trade barriers a keystone of their ideology. If capital may have bristled against barriers earlier, the current attitude toward borders is very different from that held in political circles throughout most of modernity in which nations sought to bolster their economic status in the world. Take, for example, the development of the European Union. In part an attempt to create a superpower to balance out the economic and political might of the United States after the fall of the Soviet Union, the EU's primary effect was to do away with borders for trade and work and impose uniform regulations throughout Europe.

Sassen makes the point that the nation state doesn't wither away under globalization. Rather, it increasingly serves to ensure the rights of the corporation to capital and to protect it.[2] The withering of the nation state is more of an ideological move and the state re-emerges as necessary to safeguard finance. Thus, to take a recent example, the economic bailouts of 2008 and 2009 in the United States and the European Union were less to ensure the livelihoods of individuals and more to maintain the continue viability of extremely large financial firms engaged in excessively risky forms of trade. But it's worth noting that in part this defense of the interests of finance over the citizenry is the product of capital mobility: investors and corporations today make it clear that they seek the safest and most profitable milieu and so nations and cities compete in entrepreneurial fashion, lowering trade barriers and taxes while protecting big capital during economic downturns.

The network forms the space of globalization, overlaying the abstract space of modernity. Where abstract space submits the world to a Euclidean model, mathematically mapping it within a coordinate system, the networked spatial regime goes further. The space that networks describe does not map onto physical space. Two nodes can be distant in physical space but close to each other on the network. It comes as no surprise that due to capital flows, telecommunication links, and frequent plane flights New York and London are closer to each other than New York and Nova Scotia, even if the latter is closer physically. Thus, if it is spatial, the network forms a new kind of global space that dominates, on an economic and cultural level, over the Earth. Today, Castell observes, a series of networks overlie each other, linking up globalized capital in a "space of flows … the material organization of time-sharing social practices that work through flows."[3] This space of flows is comprised of electronic networks that allow the network economy to function, together with the specific nodes and communication hubs on the network and the spatial manifestation of this logic for the business élite. The latter, he explains, takes place through social micro-networks that emerge in the sorts of places that the élite inhabits: exclusive restaurants, cultural events, clubs, and so on. [4] Today, he concludes, "our societies are constructed around flows: flows of capital, flows of information, flows of technology, flows of organizational interactions, flows of images, sounds and symbols. Flows are not just one element of social organization: they are the expression of the processes dominating our economic, political, and cultural life." [5]

To be clear, networks are nothing new. If we were to look back at the origins of the impact of networks on society, we would find such origins slipping away rapidly. Television, radio, telephone, telegraph, the postal system, roads, and trade are the stuff of civilization, Language itself forms a network employed by insects, birds, apes, whales, and other animals, communication networks predate history. Moreover if all life is based on the genetic instruction set in DNA, it is plausible to understand life at base as a form of communication. [6]

What makes ours a network age is that we cognitively map the world in terms of networks. Over the last few decades networks have been adopted by researchers and theorists in science, economy, theory, culture, politics, and war. Nor is this form of study discontinuous or somehow accidental. On the contrary, recently developed mathematical theories of networks allow scientists to better understand the behavior of complex systems from disease vectors to organizational behavior to failures in electrical grids to the function and collapse of financial systems. [7] Science writer Mark Buchanan suggests that networks allow us to escape Karl Popper's dictum that human behavior can't be modeled, promising mathematical order to human relationships. [8] Nor is he alone. Sociologist Duncan Watts, one of the principal formulators of small-worlds network theory gave up a tenured academic position to become a research scientist at Yahoo! where the corporation hopes his network theories will help identify how individuals make decisions and how friendships form. [9]

The study of networks also informs some of the richest veins of theoretical work on the Left. Urban sociology, which has flourished in the last two decades, looks at the global city and the network economy and the inequalities produced by those it. The most synthetic understandings of economy in our time-the work of Sassen, Castells, Hardt and Negri-addresses the global economy in terms of networks. [10]

The spread of the network as a spatial model demonstrates how it is more a cultural dominant than a technology. Under network culture, interconnection-especially interconnection between humans and non-humans-is fundamental. The network thus takes over from the machine, which under modernism united disparate forms of thought from mechanistic explanations in the sciences to theories of the kinesthetic human motor to automatic writing to architecture and the city (it could be said that cybernetic was the final late modern flourishing of this model) and the market, which under postmodernism served as a similar cultural base.[11]

Looking at this evolution in terms of value, it is possible to trace a progressive abstraction: a trajectory from production to consumption to connection, the latter the endless back and forth of trading to somehow extract value. This regime of networked space is thus more abstract than abstract space. So, too, it requires a shift in senses. Abstract space is the space of the visual, the realm of the spectacle. [12] But as Martin Dodge and Rob Kitchen conclude, ours is a space of code. Geometry is no longer enough to account for the production of contemporary space. Instead, networked space is produced by codes that serve to modulate it, shaping the environment around us in distinct ways. Similarly, arguing that networks are not mere metaphors but rather material technologies, Alexander Galloway suggests that the protocols embodied in technical standards-that is forms of metacode-serve as the means by which control is disseminated today. [13]

Galloway's position is inspired by a brief essay that Deleuze writes at the end of his career, "Postscript on Control Societies." Here Deleuze builds on the framework of spatial power that Foucault elaborates in Discipline and Punish. Instead of enclosures, each with its own set of rules, he concludes, today we operate in a digital world of constant modulation. Control societies are continually shifting, perpetually monitoring and responding to conditions.[14]

In this way then, we can account for a mutation within supermodern architecture in the late 1990s. For the generic, background architecture of supermodernism would disappear on the architectural scene almost as soon as it emerged. Instead, in the wake of the opening of Frank Gehry's Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, architects and urban developers turned toward iconic architecture, trying to capture the so-called "Bilbao Effect." The perceived success of "Bilbao" as the building would come to be known, eliding the city it stood in, at this early point in network culture led to a revived and instrumentalized role for architecture. Once again, architecture could be seen as transformative, but now entirely due to its formal effects. Innovative design became a means by which cities could distinguish themselves as "creative," thereby encouraging the growth of a creative class of knowledge workers to woo financial and media industries.[15]

To achieve their iconic shapes structures like Gehry's Bilbao, Rem Koolhaas's CCTV building, or Foreign Office Architects' Yokohama Terminal require significant engineering, generally speaking over-engineering for the amount of program involved. Such engineering in turn relies of advanced software and calculations giving the structures the luster of being part of the digital age. For many such architects, such as the office of Zaha Hadid and FOA, even the process of design would become technologized through "parametric design." In his "Parametricist Manifesto," Patrick Schumacher, a partner in Hadid's office states point-blank: "Parametricism responds to the new challenges architecture faces in the current era of post-Fordist network society." Such parametricist design, he suggests, allows geometries to fluidly adapt to different site conditions and functional requirements at will. [16] Parametric design thus physically embodies the modulations of control society in its undulating forms.

Producing the Bilbao-Effect led to a sort of arms race between cities, leading to the construction of ever-more expensive structures until the market crash. Moreover even the construction of the Guggenheim in Bilbao was remarkable as a financial collaboration-a networked project- between local authorities, the Spanish government, and the Guggenheim museum. Typically, such structures would be heavily leveraged, funded with government bond issues, thus becoming literal manifestations of the over-capitalization of architecture produced by the lowering of interest rates and esoteric financial instruments of the early 2000s.

[1] . Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, "A Thousand Plateaus Capitalism and Schizophrenia." (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987),

[2] . Saskia Sassen, Globalization and Its Discontents (New York: New Press, 1998), 195-214.

[3] . Castells, The Rise of the Network Society, 442.

[4] . Ibid, 443-46.

[5] . Ibid, 442.

[6] . See for example, Peter K. McGregor, Animal Communication Networks (Cambridge, UK, Cambridge University Press, 2005) and Werner R. Lowenstein, The Touchstone of Life: Molecular Information, Cell Communication and the Foundations of Life (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1999).

[7] . For an overview, see Duncan J. Watts, Six Degrees: The Science of a Connected Age, 1st ed. (New York: W.W. Norton, 2003).

[8] . Mark Buchanan, Nexus: Small Worlds and the Groundbreaking Science of Networks, 1st ed. (New York: W.W. Norton, 2002). Other popular books with a similar bent are Albert-László Barabási, Linked: The New Science of Networks (Cambridge, MA: Perseus Pub, 2002); Steven Johnson, Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software (New York: Scribner, 2001); Steven H. Strogatz, Sync: The Emerging Science of Spontaneous Order, 1st ed. (New York: Theia, 2003); Watts, Six Degrees: The Science of a Connected Age. Buchanan and Johnson are primarily journalists (although Buchanan holds a doctorate in physics) while Barabási, Strogatz, and Watts are among the key developers of network theory mathematics. These are all useful introductions to the topic.

[9] . Clive Thompson, "Is the Tipping Point Toast?" Fast Company, January 28, 2008,

[10] . Sassen, The Global City: New York, London, Tokyo; ---, Globalization and Its Discontents. Castells, The Rise of the Network Society; Manuel Castells, The Internet Galaxy: Reflections on the Internet, Business, and Society (Oxford ; New York: Oxford University Press, 2001); ---, The Power of Identity, 2nd ed, Castells, Manuel. Information Age (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2004). Hardt and Negri, Empire.

[11] . See, for example Rabinbach, The Human Motor: Energy, Fatigue, and the Origins of Modernity.

[12] . Lefebvre, The Production of Space, 75; Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle (New York: Zone Books, 1994).

[13] . Alexander R. Galloway, Protocol: How Control Exists after Decentralization, Leonardo (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2004).

[14] . Gilles Deleuze, "Postscript on Control Societies," in Negotiations (New York: Columbia University Press, 1990).

[15] . On the creative class, see Richard L. Florida, The Rise of the Creative Class: And How It's Transforming Work, Leisure, Community and Everyday Life (New York, NY: Basic Books, 2002).

[16] . Patrick Schumacher, "The Parametricist Manifesto," The Architect's Newspaper, June 6, 2010 2010.

The Financialization of Everyday Life

Here it's time to return to the financialization of architecture that marked the decade from 1998 to 2008. Beginning in the 1960s, overaccumulation of capital and declining profit rates have posed a problem for the world capitalist system, particularly in advanced economies. On the one hand, investors demanded greater returns, on the other hand, rates of return in manufacturing fell steadily. The "solution" was the creation of ever-more-complex financial instruments or financialization. In traditionally more economically advanced countries-the United States and the United Kingdom, but also much of the EU and Japan-the result has been that finance has come to dominate the economy. Kevin Phillips, for example, sums it up, noting the "extraordinary rise of the U.S. financial sector from 11-12 percent of the gross national product back in the 1980s to a stunning 20-21 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product by 2004-2005. During that same quarter century, manufacturing, for a century the pillar of our economy, slipped from about 25 percent to just 12 percent." Nor has the recent economic crisis reversed the trend. [1]

Although real estate speculation has been part of the metropolis since the start, more recently the securitization of real estate through instruments like Real Estate Investment Trusts and Mortgage-Backed Securities allowed investors to purchase fragmentary shares in real estate in exchange for income from mortgages or rents. The division of real estate into fragmentary shares, together with the creation of secondary or derivative instruments such as Credit Default Swaps purportedly allowed risk to be reduced through diversification. The confidence that this created made possible the management of more risky investments such as subprime loans to the poor and interest-only mortgages for under-capitalized house flippers. Buildings and land were turned into abstract financial instruments that could then circulate freely on the network, investment becoming a matter no longer just of realizing direct returns on the property, but rather financial processes taking place in the market itself.

The result was the rapid rise of real estate worldwide to the point that values lost any economic sense. Where the worth of a given piece of real estate is normally derived from the price it could rent for, prices began to be valued for the logic of the market alone. Thus, market models widely used by investors and homeowners began to determine the price of real estate, allowing it to go wildly out sync with the traditional forms of valuation. With the market awash in liquidity and with a lifestyle of frequent-if not constant-travel common among the rich, it became increasingly common to purchase multiple pied-à-terres in global cities, helping to precipitate a rapid increase in price. Thus, in 2010, even after the crash, an apartment in Manhattan still trades vastly in excess of its rent potential. Throughout the "new economy" of the boom of the 1990s and the real estate boom of the 2000s, there was an assumption that technological innovation had produced a massive permanent increase in productivity while an advancement of knowledge in economics would propel the market endlessly skyward. Technology, in this model, would simultaneously make sense of the market and help speculators leverage it to their advantage.

New to network culture, the globalized residential real estate market led to cities and buildings that are largely empty but rather act as sinks for global capital. Dubai is the obvious example. Venice, Italy is another: its population is largely composed of low-income service workers but the island is now dominated by pied-à-terres owned by the very rich who principally occupy them during the Biennale and Carnevale, forcing the service workers into housing on the mainland.[2] At night, the city is an empty ghost town, its buildings dark and empty. In global cities that still have an economic base, like New York, this logic extends to individual buildings and developments, leading to a phenomenon of individual buildings whose owners rarely visited them. [3]

So it is again that just as under modernism and postmodernism, architecture holds a signal role in network culture. Where architecture was the slowest of the arts-being tied to large amounts of permanently fixed capital-under network culture it is virtualized, leaving behind the simple finance of leveraging for a delirious world of financial instruments. If the Acropolis demonstrates the mathematical precision of the Athenian army, then, the parametric designs of network culture demonstrate the modulated financial calculus of network culture.

Turning back to subjectivity however, dwellers in network culture would hardly find themselves caught up in postmodern hyperspace if they entered Gehry's Disney Concert Hall, just a couple of blocks from Portman's Bonaventure Hotel no matter how complex the building seems. Having read Jameson and Augé together, we need to assign their arguments to a postmodern past. Non-places are now augmented by a new, networked space as electronic networks descend from the purview of advanced capital to permeate everyday life.

When Augé's book was first published in 1992 there were 18 million mobile phone subscribers worldwide. Today over 50% of the world's population owns a mobile phone, double the number that has access to a landline. The mobile phone is now the world's most ubiquitous gadget. Along with this comes a world of constant ambient communications: text, e-mail, and Internet-based data, flow in and out of our hands at a rapid clip. Computers too are increasingly mobile: heavy desktop "towers"- their very name invoking isolation-and their massive, television-like cathode-ray tube monitors gave way to laptops under network culture and today are turning into smart phones and tablets. Outfitted with wireless data cards, they allow us to communicate wherever we can get a connection. The screen has ceased to be furniture and has instead become portable, even pocketable.

The most archetypical of non-places, the airport lounge today is almost always outfitted with a wireless network, becoming a last-minute place to dash off an email. Far from a place of alienation, the plane is the business traveler's last indulgence, an isolated sanctuary in which to catch up with work or sleep, but even that the days of that isolation seem fleeting as wireless Internet is introduced on jets.

Radical advances in telecommunications, particularly the adoption of e-mail and the Web for everyday use in business, and the consequent shrinking of time-space horizons since then produce not only a new condition of space for an urban élite, they also produce a new level of globalization. Castells's description of the new global economy as defined by its "capacity to work as a unit in real time on a planetary scale" simply could not have held prior to the 1990s.[4] In part, global trade has been made possibly by the falling real costs of transportation of goods by ship and air, but the ability for corporations to manage global resources and personnel in real time is the direct result of recent advances in telecommunication. Today, telework and collaboration across borders is easier than ever. The world of enclosures slips further away.

Our world is one in which we disconnect from one space to connect to another. Through social networking sites, we reconnect with friends from prior jobs and schools, from days long gone by, and make new ones with little effort. When we see friends we have kept up with online we feel we know them well. After all, we have been following their every move religiously. As we graduate from school, change jobs or move to new cities, our social networks come with us and our friends stay in touch by voice, by e-mail, and by instant messaging. Photo sharing sites make it possible to see our distant friends change over the years and specialized social networking sites allow us to share in their interests. For future generations, the experience of rediscovering long-lost friends will be unfamiliar. Similarly, new friends are all too easy to make. If alienation was in part the product of feeling alone in a city or in mass society, misunderstood and unable to find others like oneself, today the Internet makes it possible for us to connect to a massive number of dispersed, networked publics brought together around particular taste cultures. Through social networking sites, we come to regard each other as intimates even before we have met. Intimacy is now a matter of keeping up the "telecocoon," the steady, ambient conversation that keeps individuals together regardless of how far apart they are.[5]

[1] . Phillips, Bad Money: Reckless Finance, Failed Politics, and the Global Crisis of American Capitalism, xiii.

[2] . Wolfgang Scheppe et al, Migropolis: Venice: Atlas of a Global Situation (Ostfildern: Hatje/Cantz: Fondazione Bevilacqua La Masa: Commune di Venezia, 2009).

[3] . Christine Haughney, "It's Lonely at the Plaza Hotel and …" The New York Times (February 17, 2008)

[4] . Castells, The Rise of the Network Society, 101.

[5] . Ichiyo Habuchi, "Accelerating Reflexivity," in Personal, Portable, Pedestrian: Mobile Phones in Japanese Life, ed. Mizuko Ito, Daisuke Okabe, and Misa Matsuda (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2005).