The First Annual Conference of Network Society “Forces of Reticulation”
Organizer: The Institute of Network Society (INS), School of Inter- Media Art (SIMA) of China Academy of Art (CAA)
In the past decades, digital networks have transformed many aspects of our society, including social organisation, aesthetic and artistic practices, and research orientation in the social sciences. In the 18th century in Europe, Saint Simon and his followers have dreamed of realising a socialism through the building of different networks, so that resources can be effectively redistributed. Saint Simon’s socialism has never been realized, as said Marx, that he was blind to class struggles. However Saint Simon’s believe in the force of reticulation that can impose fundamental changes to our society is still valid, and becomes even more important today. We have witnessed the emergence of computer network since the mid of the last century, and the rise of network societies according to the analysis of the sociologist Manuel Castells. In the past decade, the rapid growth in data production due to the maturity of web technologies, the rise of the internet of things, smart objects have created various forms of articulation, that have effectively pervaded our everyday life. The Graduate Institute of Network Society will dedicate the first annual international conference the question of network, with the title “Forces of Reticulation”, with four main focuses
1) Aesthetics : the digital reticulation technology has produced a new world image [Weltbild], in which the network form becomes the intuitive form of the world: everything is connected with each other. This aesthetics is expressed in data visualisation and further conceptualised as analytical tool in the work of the media theorist Lev Manovich – cultural analytics. How can then this aesthetics become a critical tool, instead of just reinforcing this world picture? Or in what other critical forms of reticulation can be imagined?
2) Ecology : central to network is the question of media ecology. This allows us to understand not only how information is circulated, but also how senses are produced and organized on the networks, through different apparatus （Fuller; Hörl）. This concept of ecology exceeds what has been understood in related to the natural environment, but also points to a media-technological ecology. How then can this new ecology be conceptualized?
3) Materiality: the other question concerns the materiality of the networks. We can understand the materiality in two ways, firstly the material infrastructure of networks, e.g. cables, servers, etc., but also the materiality of data and information, which has been so far misunderstood as immaterial (Hui). Instead it is what the philosopher Jean-Francois Lyotard calls the new material or what Bernard Stiegler calls the hypermaterial, what does it imply to understand data networks in this way?
4) Algorithm: in comparison with the networks such as railway, electrics, data networks are more flexible towards algorithmic modulation. Algorithm becomes the new force that automatically organize these networks, either it is Twitter or Weibo, Facebook or Wechat. Algorithms when used for consumerism, according to the legal and media theorist Antoinette Rouvroy, implies a “algorithmic governmentality” in the sense of the word from Michel Foucault. How shall we understand the stake of such a society becoming more and more automatized and subject to algorithms?
At the meantime, we sincerely invite young artists, hackers, activists of Chinese speaking world to formulate our round table forum, in order to articulate theory and practices.