That we live in a networked society has become a cliché. From high-speed financial networks that erode national sovereignty to Twitter feeds that foster new political alliances to viruses that threaten global catastrophe, networks allegedly encapsulate everything new—politically, culturally, militarily—about our current era. But what are networks and how do they matter? How do they differ from one another? How are they experienced and negotiated—what feelings of paranoia, empowerment, and inclusion/exclusion do they engender? This talk wagers that the answer to these questions lies in how networks are imagined. That is, the power of “networks” as a theoretical tool stems from how they enable us to link between the global and the local—two scales allegedly irrevocably disconnected in the postmodern era. Rather than simply dissolving postmodern confusion, though, networks have created intriguing new crises and social formations.
Wendy Chun is Professor of Modern Culture and Media at Brown University. She has studied both Systems Design Engineering and English Literature, which she combines and mutates in her current work on digital media. She is author of “Control and Freedom: Power and Paranoia in the Age of Fiber Optics” (MIT, 2006), and “Programmed Visions: Software and Memory” (MIT 2011); she is co-editor of a special issue of Camera Obscura entitled “Race and/as Technology” and co-editor of “New Media, Old Media: A History and Theory Reader” (Routledge, 2005). She is currently a Member of the Institute for Advanced Study (Princeton); she has been a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard and a Wriston Fellow at Brown, as well as a visiting associate professor in the History of Science Department at Harvard. She is currently working on a monograph entitled “Imagined Networks”.
Co-sponsored by the Department of Film and Media.
The History and Theory of New Media series is produced by the Berkeley Center for New Media with support from the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS).