In the first reading for this week, “Networks: Emerging Frameworks for Analysis” by Amelia H. Arsenault, the author explores the importance of networks as a social and political phenomenon: how to define networks, how to study them and their implications for both individual and society as a whole.
As it is define in simplest terms, a network refers to a set of relationships between objects or nodes. According to author, depending on the network or theoretical approach to observe the networks, the nodes or members within a network are always heterogeneous or different from one another.
It is acceptable for definition of what a network is but I am uncertain for the latter argument that all members within network are heterogeneous or different from one another. I might consider the differences among members are the reason to communicate each other and stay in the network. But I found no evident that differences make members to communicate each other. In contrast to what the author said, I imagine the possibility of a network society that is totally homogenous in which members or nodes of networks have exact uniformity but remains in the network and communicate with each other for the benefits of each members.
So here comes my question: is it necessary for members of network societies to be different from each other? Or all network societies are essentially heterogeneous?
As I digest the concept of network societies from the article, I visualize them in two model. First, the one with the center or the hub that take the leadership role to control and supervise the information flow across the network. Second, there is another possibility of a network society that is totally leaderless in which all members have the same level of privilege to sent, transmit and receive the information in the same way.
As I have some knowledge in computer networking technologies, I compare the models of computer networks to human based network societies as below.
As you can see above, the server based computer network model is compatible to network societies in the countries ruled by authoritarian government, in which the leader or the broadcasting center sits at the center to disseminate information across the countries to units of government bodies which are all created as uniform entities. This kind of countries usually lacks private partnerships as well as foreign entities in communication industry and the State is the sole broadcaster of information. It is also a characteristic for that kind of network society where all of its citizens or provincial units are seen as equal or propagandize as equal just as the computers within a server based network may have equal priority to access information in the server. Society in North Korea is the best example for that kind of network societies centering around the government or leadership for broadcasting of information.
Although societies in authoritarian nations are the ultimate model for this kind of networks, other nations are not free from server based or central government based networks. I believe all nation’s government today has some forms of central control to its citizens or regional units so that they are bounded as one nation.
Secondly, in peer-to-peer or P2P network model, all computers are connected to each other directly rather via the server computer. As it does not have server to supervise and control the flow of information, each computer is free to send, receive and transfer information without limit and restrictions but they are all responsible for all of its networking activities. And characteristically, all are required to maintain separate channels to connect with another one.
I believe this kind of networking societies can be seen in today’s emerging supranational corporations like SONY and organizations like World Trade Organization. In the case of SONY, although it was started out as a Japan based brand electronic maker, it is now extended into many different industries like entertainment, media and electronics and propagated a number of productions centers and governing units across the globe. Although all of these companies are part of SONY group of companies, they running as separate independent units and there is not a central control for communicating with each other and decision making processes. For WTO, all trading nations sit together to set guidelines and procedures to benefit the most for each of them. Each member nations are free to network and communicate with other nations and it lacks the central body like United Nations’ Security Council to make the ultimate decisions for all.
Here, I am wondering if there any other model for networking societies in any other forms. I think these two models can be seen as two extreme ends of today’s networking societies in which all are somewhere between totally centralized and entirely independently entities. Most of network societies are hybrid of the two.
Finally, I have another question for staying out of networks or rights to refuse to be a network society. This can be seen in theoretical framework of second reading, a research report by three authors on Profiling Social Networking Sites and Activists in China, Latin America, and the United States.
As observing the activism in social networking sites, it can be seen the forces of globalization with the American/Western civilizations at the spearhead is spreading across the world and impacting everyone. But there are still fierce countering forces to reject this Westernized or globalized world. Especially, in Islamic societies, there are strong tendencies to remain in traditional forms of communications and apparently the terrorism is their response to expending globalization. But, these tendencies are not limited to Muslim’s world. If one looks carefully across the globe, there are non-Islamic societies that choose to be out of network societies like tiny Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan and tribal societies of Papua New Guinea. These countries are remain in their traditional ways of life just as hundreds of years ago but are seen as backward societies and stand the lowest at international standards index for development and innovations.
So here comes another critical question: Is it possible to stay out of today’s networks or refuse to be a network society?