Summary

  • “This book investigates the twinning of habits and crisis that structure networked time” (2). Put another way, “if ‘networks’ have become the dominant concept . . . it is because of what they are imaged and imagined to do.” Networks trap us in habit and in an endless neoliberal address of the plural/singular YOU: networks pervert the “wonderful creepiness” of new media and disable counterformations of political possibility conditioned on willful sharing and constant touch (ephemerality). “Like the books before it, it suggests that, if our desires for something like secure intimacy and for computers as ‘personal’ put us at risk, these dangers can be best attenuated not through better or more security, but rather through a wary embrace of the vulnerability that is networking and through a reimagination of networks” (19).

Keywords

  • habit: “Habits are creative anticipations based on past repetitions that make network maps the historical future” (3).
  • network

Notes

Introduction

  • In order to break the cycle of obsolescence, both for technology and theory, Chun proposes that “our media matter most when they seem not to matter at all, that is, when they have moved from the new to the habitual” (1). This is, after all, the default critical pose of media archaeology—or even more so, given that media archaeology is about the dead or the past.
  • Think about the quality of “remains” in Parikka’s work: “New media remain in habits and in off-shored trash heaps” (2).
  • “Habit + Crisis = Update”: “The update is central to disrupting and establishing context and habituation, to creating new habits of dependency” (2).
  • “Crises make the present a series of updates in which we race to stay close to the same and in which information spreads not like a powerful, overwhelming virus, but rather like a long, undead thin chain” (3).
  • “Habits link not only humans to other humans, but also humans to nonhumans and the environment” (7): crystal formation, basal ganglia, mobile interface design.
  • “This combination of gossip with politics is not an unfortunate aspect of new media and digital culture, but the point. New media blur these distinctions because they are part of the postindustrial/neoliberal economy” (13).
  • “Networks have become key because they are imagined as ending postmodern confusion . . . mak[ing] possible groupings based on individual and connectable YOUs” (15); “Further, networks are belatedly too early. They are both projections and histories; they are both theory and empirically existing entities. To begin to imagine networks differently, this chapter thinks about new media in terms of habitual repetition and constitutive leaks. Information, it argues, is habit” (17).

Part One. Imagined Networks, Glocal Connections

  • “‘Network’ is an odd, almost contagious concept. Networks are both actually existing realities and theoretical abstractions. They are both planning diagrams and their result, both description and elucidation-they are theoretical in all senses of the word” (25).
  • “Hence, networks do not imagine a collective entity traveling together through time, but instead a series of individuals that (cor)respond in their own time to singular, yet connected, events” (27).
  • On networks and the imagination of unrepresentability: “Networks answer the dilemma posed by postmodernism-How to navigate an increasingly confused and confusing globalized world?-by diagramming allegedly unrepresentable interactions, from the spread of capital to affects” (39). “Thus, irrespective of political and intellectual differences theorists have posited maps and networks—however defined—as key to empowering agents by making the invisible visible” (43). (Huge point to think through w/r/t Nagatani.)
  • Affect and technology collapse in the network (43–44).
  • Networks are simultaneously real and virtual technology; they bear directly on my work on planetary-scale computation that constructs a virtual earth as such: “These networks are portrayed as actually existing empirical entities, despite the fact that network analysis replaces real-world events with a reductive and abstract mathematical model” (46).
  • “All this is hidden by the neat tracings of traceroute and other network mappings, which erase the existence of crosstalk and other wonderful, generative effects of electromagnetic interference. This leaking is not accidental; it is central” (52).
  • “Networks are made out of time: the chronic time of habits (memory) and the punctuating time of crisis. Unfolding in real time, habitual repetition grounds ties; crises break and create new ones. Crises-turning points, events that demand decisions-ensure that networks differ from graphs; it makes them alive and volatile. Crises undo habituation and undermine autonomy: they turn habits into addictions. Just when we are finally accustomed to something, it changes” (69).
  • Crisis twinned to code/habit: “From financial crises linked to complex software programs to diagnoses and predictions of global climate change that depend on the use of supercomputers, from undetected computer viruses to bombings at securitized airports, we are increasingly called on both to trust coded systems and to prepare for events that elude them” (70). [This sentence seems to list out all of the shit I’ve done work on in the past two years.]
  • “The Internet was critical because it fulfilled various theoretical dreams” (71).
  • Theory in crisis b/c of the internet’s speed, following Wark and Lovink; “However, I also think we need to theorize this narrative of theory in crisis, which resonates both with the general proliferation of crises discussed earlier and with recent handwringing within academia over the alleged death of theory. Moreover, we need to theorize this narrative in relation to its corollary: an ever-increasing desire for crises” (73).
    • Here we can think about the Anthropocene as a shallow crisis demanding a new critical approach or a new set of jargon as ways to make precarious workers visible in the academic marketplace. This is an important critical argument in order to make clear what my investiture in the Anthropocene really is.
  • “Crisis is new media’s critical difference. In new media, crisis has found its medium; and in crisis, new media has found its value, its punctuating device” (74); “This value is not necessarily inherent to the material itself: this information could, at other moments, be incidental; but it becomes significant because it relates to an ongoing decision, to a ‘real-time’ action” (75).
  • “The belief in memory as storage, combined with the belief in ‘real time’ as indexical, is a form of cruel optimism: memory, which once promised to save users from time, makes them out of time by making them respond constantly to information they have already responded to, to things that will not disappear. Information is curiously undead, constantly regenerating, and users save things, if they do, by making the ephemeral endure” (78).
  • “This oddly reversed temporality-because I do it, I must like it; because I do it, I must be the source-resonates with the very work of habit, namely prediction” (82).
  • Code as law as police produces a state of exception where all political power collapses into the programmer’s imagined power over the world at hand: code as logos is the end of democracy (83). This is elaborated more thoroughly in Programmed Visions.
  • “Rather than arguing whether memory exists and what it is or is not, what is most needed is a change of perspective, one that acknowledges that memory is an action, an activation and difference in structure, perhaps making memory not anything because it is everything” (89).
  • These pages (89–91) are important for my projective SIGCIS paper: “It underscores the importance of access, and makes us see how digitization can be a means of dynamic preservation. To access repeatedly is to preserve through construction (and sometimes destruction)” (90).
  • Global climate models make this clear. These models hope to defer the future. These predictive models are produced so that, if they are persuasive and thus convince us to cut back on our carbon emissions, what they predict will not happen-that is, their predictions will not be verifiable. This relationship is necessary because, by the time we know whether their exact predictions are accurate, it will be too late (this is perhaps why the second Bush administration supported global climate change research: by investigating the problem, building better models, they bought more time for polluters). I stress this temporality because by framing this temporality in terms of responsibility, we can best respond to critics who deride these models by focusing on the fallibility of algorithms and data, as if the gap between the future and future predictions was reason for dismissal rather than hope” (91).

Part Two. The Internet’s Perverse Subjects

  • This section is more oriented toward social media and while I’m reading it in full my notes here might be a bit more thin.
  • Surveillance makes the Internet “a viable commercial space” (94).
  • I am more sympathetic to Chun’s call for a space for mass loitering than, say, Matt is, but I do agree that I’m not sure how to handle the book’s theoretical first half with the slight deflation of its second half. Like Obfuscation, its prescribed methods pale in comparison to its theoretical majesty.
  • “Online friendship—a concept that muddies the neat boundary between public and private, work and leisure—encapsulates the promise and threat of networks: the promise of an intimacy that, however banal, transcends physical location and enables self-made bonds to ease the loneliness of neoliberalism; the threat of a security based on poorly gated ‘neighborhoods’”; “This authenticating friendship, this chapter also emphasizes, perverts traditional concepts of friendship by transforming it from an essentially broadcast (and private) action-an unreciprocated act to love/like someone-to a banal, reciprocal, and ‘authentic-like’ relation” (103–04).
  • Trust, she insists, is a far richer concept that entails a willingness to be vulnerable. The reduction of trust to security assumes that danger stems from outsiders, Nissenbaum writes, rather than from ‘sanctioned, established, powerful individuals and organizations’” (110).
  • “This loving side of spam also undermines the difference between spam and not-spam, human and inhuman. After all, what is the difference between semiautomatic ‘happy birthday’ postings on Facebook pages and the emails, allegedly from friends, asking users to buy drugs from dodgy Canadian pharmacies? Involuntary (or not entirely voluntary) messages from others remind users that they are somehow connected to others, that they are in their address book, that others care enough about them to put them at risk” (127).
  • “This book is a call for us to develop public rights, rather than accept the notion that if one is (un)wittingly exposed, one is then forever denied protection. Rather than ‘consent once, circulate forever,’ we need to find ways to loiter in public without being attacked. We need a politics of fore-giving that combats the politics of memory as storage, that fights for the ephemeral and fights not only for the right to be forgotten but also the right not to be stored in the first place. This reengagement with memory also entails a change in our habits of using-and our refusal of designs that undermine habituation by turning habits into forms of addiction, a refusal of undead information that renders us into zombies. It means inhabiting and discovering how our habits collect, rather than divide, us” (172).

Archive and Impact

  • Alongside Kirschenbaum, Chun is probably the most influential scholar to my approach.
  • This book leans on a wide range of critical, continental, sociological, and technical theory; take that first paragraph on habit on pp. 6, which whiplashes through Grosz, Deleuze, Bergson, Malabou, Hume, and Merleau-Ponty in a few sentence.s
  • Chun’s engagement with the imagined or virtual qualities of networks (26) is helpful for my thinking about virtual or speculative computing: to say that a thing does not exist does not mean that it does not exert effects on the world that can be sensed in material and social configurations.
  • I’ve got to be honest: I’m not sure what’s going on with these Courier interludes. They strike me as overindulgent, similar to the sorts of rhetorical overindulgences of the Anthropocene section.