Here is the abstract for an upcoming talk at the Politics: Web 2.0: An International Conference organized by the New Political Communication Unit, Department of Politics and International Relations, Royal Holloway, University of London. The conference is April 17 & 18.
Social Networks and the Politics of Nodocentrism
Ulises A. Mejias
As social networks are actualized by information and communication technologies (ICTs), they cease to function as mere metaphors and become templates for organizing sociality. Networks –as assemblages of people, technology and social norms– arrange subjects into structures and define the parameters for their interaction, thus actively shaping their social realities. But what does the social network include, and what is left out? What are the politics of the network as episteme? By definition, social networks are not anti-social, but they manifest a bias (which I term “nodocentrism”) against engaging anything that is not part of the network. Nodocentrism embodies a politics of exclusion, since in order for something to be relevant or even visible within the network it needs to be rendered as a node. For nodes, what is outside the network diminishes in social value. Using the framework of nodocentrism, I explore the politics of the social network through its stages of growth (creating new nodes through assimilation), preferential attachment (favoring rich nodes), hyperinflation (widening of the inequality between nodes), capitalization (converting inequality into gain for a few and loss for the rest) and segregation (purging of unwanted nodes from the network). I end by proposing the concept of the “paranodal,” the expanse between nodes, as the only possible site from which to un-think the logic of nodocentrism. Paranodality can provide the subject with the political context for disidentifying from the network, offering a site for the critical assessment of networked sociality.