Thursday, February 08, 2007

On Network

Interesting that I should read Dewi's post that mentions informal community networks in Jakarta and Bangkok, and not long afterwards I stumble on Kazys Varnelis' "The Rise of Network Culture," through his blog post.

Being a fan of Manuel Castells, I read the latter quite excitedly, and found it to be a good further exploration on the importance of networks. It's quite a heavy and philosophical read (not sure I understood all of it), stating how "network culture" is the next big thing after modernism and postmodernism. I quote my favorite part:
Today, network culture succeeds postmodernism. It does so in a more subtle way. It does not figure itself as an “ism” that would lay claim to the familiar territory of manifestos, symposia, definitive museum exhibits and so on, but rather servers as a more emergent phenomenon.
A question remains in my head: how does this entirely "new cultural condition" link to the lives of the poor? Surely, they have networks too; in fact, many aspects of their livelihoods depend on networks. Would networks mean more to them now, as more people in rural areas have access to cell-phones, than before?

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  1. Muli,

    Thomas Friedman in "The World is Flat" touched upon this very issue of how the telecommunication and thus informational network have changed the lives of people living in the rural areas.

    In it, Friedman maintains that the access to information certainly has and will continue to have influence that can either benefit or destroy the relationship between remote areas with the global world.

    The benefits, among others, are the increased knowledge and jobs which were previously monopolized by those who had privileged access to telecommunication and information. One of the disadvantages that come with information is the realization of disparate conditions that have caused the very situation the less privileged communities are in.

    Friedman argues that the rise of either recent amazing development (as in the case of India) or fundamentalism (as in the case of AlQaeda) can be traced back to how different societies react to this previously unavailable access and utilize the information to very different ends.

    I find his ideas very accessible and help me to better understand Castells’ “Network Society”.

  2. Dewi,

    thanks for the tip. I have only read reviews of the World is Flat. I didn't realize that it also touched the impact of telecommunications on rural communities. Guess that's one more on my to read list :)

    I did, however, met with Prof. Ashok Jhunjhunwala of IIT, Chennai, in 2005, and asked him how he viewed Friedmann's idea of flatness. He said it's really over-simplified. But I guess when someone's out to make a point, simplification is one way to go.