network culture

Preface

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.