THE CONCEPT OF THE NETWORK SOCIETY: POST-ONTOLOGICAL REFLECTIONS, pp. 95-112, Niels Overgaard Lehmann, Lars Qvortrup, Bo Kampmann Walter, eds., Copenhagen: Samsfundslitteratur Press, 2007
17 Pages Posted: 15 Jan 2013
Date Written: March 8, 2006
We start our description of network society by recalling the simple, yet powerful mechanism of producing and dealing with social uncertainty proposed and developed by Harrison C. White in his eponymous Identity and Control. Networks are considered to consist of, and reproduce, a number of heterogeneous elements, such as ideologies, institutions, individuals, technologies, and sites, tied to one another via relations of identity and control. There is no one element not receiving its identity from the relations it is tied into. And there is no way to maintain identity if not via the control of the contribution of one's own identity to all other identities. That includes expressions of identities which consist in imposing themselves on others, and depend for that imposition on the others accepting that it in one way or another. Thus, identity, as well as control, is mutual, or cybernetic. All we need to be able to understand, i.e. control, the self-organization of a society is to look at networks being constituted by elements of any, yet necessarily heterogeneous, kind tying themselves into relations of mutual identity and control. The heterogeneity is necessary as a reminder of indeterminacy and uncertainty, and thus of the complexity calling any one observer to make up his or her mind for him- or herself. The heterogeneity is finally necessary as a reminder of the impossibility of being sure what identity one is dealing with (including one's own) from any one moment to the next, as unknown processes of dissolution and re-emergence may be happening in between.
Keywords: network, society
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