Castells, Manuel. The Rise Of The Network Society. 2nd ed.Oxford; Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers, 2010.
Manuel Catells, author of The Rise of the Network Society
Since I took notes on the text during Week 1, I am continuing notes here.
In the first chapter, Castells explores the information technology revolution. The revolution is one of the few eras of rapid change that have punctuated periods of stable eras. Technologies involved include micro-electronics, computing, telecommunication/broadcasting, and opto-electronics (29). Technological revolutions are pervasive in that they penetrate all domains of human activity, they are process-oriented, but the technology revolution is one of technology information and processing. It applies knowledge and information to knowledge generation and information processing, communication devices (31). Stages of the development of the revolution included: learning by using and learning by doing (31). The human mind is a direct productive force in the revolution, and computers, communication systems, and genetic decoding amplify and extend the human mind (31). Minds and machines have become increasingly integrated. Unlike past technological revolutions, the information revolution spread across the globe rapidly, and those places that are cut off from the technology is “a critical source of inequality in our society” (33). Energy has been the key to past revolutions, while power to produce, to distribute, and to communicate is the core of this revolution (38). Key developments in the revolution include: micro-electronics, computers, and telecommunications. The transistor, the microprocessor, micro-electronics, microcomputers, telecommunications, and opto-electronics all brought something to the amplification of the effects of information technologies (45). Castells explores the development of the Internet, network technologies, and biotechnology in the chapter. The new technological system resulted from “the autonomous dynamics of technological discovery and diffusion, including synergistic effects between various key technologies” (59-60). The technological revolution was not socially determined, but was the result of development and applications and content (60). The technological revolution comes about in a “milieu of innovation by the convergence on one site of new technological knowledge and a large pool of skilled engineers and scientists” (62). The milieu generates its own dynamics, to attract knowledge, investment, and talent (65). Sites must be able to “generate synergy on the basis of knowledge and information, directly related to industrial production and commercial applications” (67). The state is often involved in innovation.
The information technology paradigm provides the foundation of the network society, and it includes:
1) Information is the raw material
2) Information technologies are pervasive as information is part of human existence
3) The network is adapted to increasing complexity of patterns and unpredictable patterns of development
4) The paradigm is based on flexibility
5) The convergence of specific 6echnologies into a highly integrated system
In the information society, technology serves as an extension of the human mind and furthers human productivity.
The new economy emerging through the information technology revolution is informative, global, and networked. The agents of productivity and competitiveness depend on information, production, consumption, and circulation, and their components are organized globally, and productivity and competition happens through a global network of interaction (77). The global economy acts as a feedback loop in that changes that it makes to technology, knowledge, and management, impact technology, knowledge, and management themselves (78). An increase in productivity drives the growth of the economic system, despite a lag that sometimes exists between innovation and production. The evolution of productivity depends on the context of that productivity (88). Statistical studies of productivity need to be adapted to the dynamics of today’s economy in order to better understand growth. Economic agents must adapt to the new economy or face extinction (94). While productivity drives the economy, it is profitability and competitiveness that drives productivity (94). Profitability is increased the global economy network is increased through extending reach, integrating markets, and maximizing advantages (96). The development of the economy was complex, and involves knowledge and information processing and the subsuming of the industrial economy. Today, we have a global (not world) economy that works as a unit, but local and regional nodes like organizations and firms still play an important role (101). Technology allows for fast movement of capital, so global financial flows have increased a great deal. Deregulation, development of infrastructure, new financial products, speculative movements of financial flows, and market valuation firms have resulted in the global interdependence of financial markets. The globalization of the market drives the new global economy through increased flow of the market. Labor has been divided internationally, resulting in trade dominance of some countries while opening up new channels of integration of new economies (110), but local public institutions have impacted free trade and government decisions (116). Production sectors are organized in “the global web” (122), with many firms in many locations networking to create a production economy that is 1) high-volume, 2) flexible, 3) customized (123). Technological knowledge is diffused globally in a selective pattern of decentralized, multidirectional production networks (129). Laborers find themselves increasingly connected to others globally, resulting in increasing transnationalism from the bottom (132). That which is valuable to the network appropriate wealth, while those not valuable are excluded (134). Politics plays a big role in the development of the new economy because development of firms and technologies often depends on political action like regulation, deregulation, privatization and liberalization of trade/investment (147). The new economy is rapidly spreading and it is causing restructuring, prosperity, and crisis as economies and societies adapt (162).
The global economy requires networking and competition.
Chapter 3: Culture, Institution, Organization
The globally economy is characterized by “its emergence in very different cultural/national contexts,” but there is still the possibility of a “common matrix of organizational forms in the processes of production, consumptions, and distribution” (163). Castells claims that cultures manifest themselves “through their embeddedness in institutions and organizations” (164). The informational, global economy relies on the “convergence and interaction between a new technological paradigm and a new organizational logic that constitutes the historical foundation of the informational economy” (164). This logic takes different forms in different cultural and institutional contexts (164). There are a number of possible organizational trajectories (“specific arrangements of systems of means oriented toward increasing productivity and competitiveness in the new technological paradigm and in the new global economy” (165-166). These trajectories include: a move from mass production to flexible production that accommodates change, the crisis of the corporation and the resilience of small and medium business well adapted to flexible production, new methods of management (management worker cooperation, multifunctional labor, total quality control, and reduction of uncertainty) which prevent major disruption in production, inter-firm networking (multidirectional networking in small and medium business and licensing-subcontracting under an umbrella organization), strategic alliances between large corporations that are no longer self-contained and self-sufficient, a shift from hierarchical bureaucracy to horizontal cooperation in a “dynamic and strategically planned network of self-programmed, self-directed units based on decentralization participation, and coordination” (178), a crisis of vertical corporation models and the rise of networked businesses that are adapted to the global information economy, and the rise of the global networked business model that gives a different role in the process to different firms involved.
Traditional corporate culture was an obstacle to adapting corporations to the flexibility of the global economy. The organizational change happened independent of technological change as a response to the changing environment, but technology did help the change take place (185). The new organizational model that has formed is called “the network enterprise” (187). This enterprise “makes material the culture of the informational, global economy: it transforms signals into the commodities by processing knowledge” (188).
Economic organization depends upon the culture and institutions within the context. Technology and global business causes, the forms “diffuse, borrow from each other, and create a mixture that responds to largely common patterns of production and competition, while adapting to the specific social environments in which they operate” (188). Castells uses East Asian business networks as case studies through which to explore this. The new organizational paradigm includes business networks, technological tools, global competition, the state, and the emergence and consolidation of the network enterprise (212). The network enterprise contains “a common cultural code in the diverse workings of the network enterprise” (214).
Questions with Discussion:
What is the role of counterculture and activism in the growth of a network society?
One of the concepts that most interested me when I read Castells was the role of counterculture in the information technology revolution. The computer counterculture, Castells tells us, was “often intellectually associated with the aftershocks of the 1960’s movements in their most libertarian/utopian version. The computer counterculture developed the modem. The modem allows for files to be trabnsmitted between two computers without a host system, and the counterculture movement spread innovations at no cost.
In this previous video, Castells talks about contemporary social movements such as the occupy movement. He explains that they form in cyberspace, thereby potentially having a global reach, as the global economy does, but just as with the global economy, local context or space is vital to the development of the social movement also. The pattern he discusses is internet use, occupation of space (usually), and the possibility of creating a new form of democratic representation.
He says that part of the idea behind such movements is to escape the positivist logic of the capitalist system. He says that movements are attempting to make people aware that they do not have to delegate their power to the politicians. When I watched this video, it reminded me of the way in which the computer counterculture cut out the middleman (the host) with the creation of the modem and other technologies that allow the individual user more autonomy.
Innovation by activists is key here as it was in the computer counterculture because innovation acts to reshape the political system, whether positively as in the case of Iceland or negatively as in Cyprus. So, this innovation, just as computer innovation, is not neutral, good, or bad.
What about Ecology? How does it compare to the concept of the network society?
As I was reading, it occurred to me that the concept of the network society has a good deal in common with the concept of the mind in ecology. In ecology, the mind is both a complete system and a sub-system within a system. It seems to me that Castells describes the network society in a similar way. For Castells, machins become part of the ecology of the human minds, since computers, communication systems, and genetic decoding amplify and extend the human mind (31). Minds and machines have become increasingly integrated.
When I watched the video above, I realized that environmental ecology is not a parallel system, but that in fact environmental ecology exists within the framework of the global network society. Castells says that “space and time are intertwined in nature and in society” and he says that “Both space and time are being combined in effect of the information technology paradigm” (407). I tend to think of environmental ecology as a place of space,” and materials, but when I watched the video, I realized that the agricultural industry is part of the network society, as information is vital to the success of the industry. However, the role of the technologically networked society in the environment is not limited to cultivated plant and animal life, but that the network society is becoming increasingly vital to conservation activism.
How does feedback impact the network society? How does it compare to LLLI?
It seems that in a network society, information continually cycles from the source, to the user, and then the user make innovations or contributes to knowledge. Castells says, “A networked, deeply interdependent economy emerges that becomes increasingly able to apply its progress in technology, knowledge, and management to technology, knowledge, and management themselves” (78). He also says that “the application of knowledge and information to knowledge a generation and information processing/communication devices” happens “in a cumulative feedback loop between innovation and the uses of innovation” (31).
In some ways, the mother/baby and mother/baby/leader dynamic in LLLI, the end users of LLLI recommended philosophy and practice, is instrumental in an eventual shift in policy/practice because the problems face by real mothers requires innovations and practices that may cycle back to the organization in one of these “virtuous circles” that Castells describes on page 78.
Key Ideas from Chapters 5-7
Chapter 5: The Culture of Real Virtuality
- the formation of hypertext and meta-language integrates, oral, written, and visual modes of communication for the first time, and changes the character of human communication
- the culture of real virtuality is the result of the new communication system, is mediated by social interests, government policies, and business strategies
- the fundamental impact of the normalization of messages is that it levels all content into each person’s frame of images
- the audience is not a passive object but an interactive subject
- in the new media system, the message is the medium
- we don’t live in a globalized village, but in customized cottages globally produced and locally distributed
- there have been “efforts to regulate, privatize, and and commercialize the Internet and its tributary systems, CMC networks, inside and outside the Internet, are characterized by their pervasiveness, their multi-faceted decentralization, and their flexibility” (385).
- the Internet allows the forging of weak ties with strangers, linking people with different social characteristics (388)
- virtual communities are and are not real communities; they are not physical and they do not follow the same patterns, but they work on a different plane of reality (389)
- most CMC activity takes place at work or in work related situations, but they also reach the whole realm of social activity
- in the new system, the message is the message (399)
- widespread social/cultural differentiation leads to the segmentation of users/viewers/readers/listeners (402)
- social stratification of users; the multimedia world will be populated by two distinct populations: interacting and interacted (402)
- the communication of all kinds of messages in the same system induces an integration of all messages in a common cognitive pattern (402)
- the most important feature of multimedia is that they capture within their domain most cultural expressions in all their diversity (403)
- real virtuality creates a system in which reality itself is entirely captured, fully immersed in a virtual image setting, in which appearances are not just on the screen through which experience is communicated (404)
Chapter 6: The Space of Flows
- space and time are intertwined with nature and society
- space orders time in the network society
- the informational, global society is ordered around command and control centers able to coordinate, innovate, and manage interwtined activities of networks of firms (409)
- as the economy expand and incorporates new markets it also organizes the production of advanced services required to manage new unites in the joining system (410)
- the global city is a process, not a place (417)
- the new industrial space is organized in a hierarchy of innovation and fabrication articulated in global networks (424)
- there is an increasing dissociation between spatial proximity and the performance of everyday life functions (424)
- interactivity of spaces breaks up spatial patterns of behavior into a fluid network of exchanges (429)
- new forms of urban centers emerge from the network
- space is the material support, always bearing a symbolic meaning, of time-sharing social practices (441)
- the space of flows is the material organization of time-sharing practices that work through flows (442)
- the first material support of the space of flows is constituted by a circuit of electronic exchanges (442)
- the space of flows is constituted by its nodes and hubs (443)
- the spatial organization of the dominant, manages elites exercise the directional functions around which space is articulated (445)
- societies are organized around the dominant interests specific to each social structure (445)
- the space of flows is the dominant spatial form of the network society (448)
- a place is a locale whose form, function, and meaning are self-contained within the boundaries of physical contiguity (453)
- people live in places, but function and power in society is concentrated in the space of flows (458)
- unless cultural, political, and physical bridges are deliberately built between the two forms of space, we may be heading toward life in two parallel universes (459)
Chapter 7: Timeless Time
- capital’s freedom from time and culture’s escape from the clock are decisively facilitated by new forms of technologies (464)
- timeless time is the emerging dominant form
- the suppression of time is at the core of new organizational forms of economic activity (467)
- high performance firms attempt to manage time (468)
- the challenge of the new relationship between work and technology is the shortening of life working time for most of society (475) age wars will be the result
Network enterprise: “that specific form of enterprise whose system of means is constituted by the intersection of segments of autonomous systems of goals” (187).
mass self-communication – a new form of societal communication that is mass “because it reaches a potentially global audience through p2p networks and Internet connection” and it is multimodal because digitization of content and social software allow for reformatting of content in almost any form to be distributed in wireless networks (xxx).
space of contiguity – spaces of places (xxxi)
space of flows – “the material support of simultaneous social practices communicated at a distance” (xxxii).
timeless time – the kind of time occurring in a context when there is a systemic perturbation of sequential order (xli).
glacial time – slow motion time the human mind assigns to the evolution of the planet (xlii).