November 8 – Networks

//November 8 – Networks
November 8 – Networks 2016-10-24T23:21:33-04:00


Manuel Castells. “Prologue, Chap. 1” in The Rise of the Network Society. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010. pgs. 1-76.

Scott B Weingart. “Demystifying Networks, Parts I & II.” Journal of Digital Humanities, March 15, 2012.

Alan Liu. “From Reading to Social Computing.” In Literary Studies in the Digital Age, edited by Kenneth M. Price and Ray Siemens. Modern Language Association of America, 2013.




  1. Isabelle November 3, 2016 at 2:33 pm

    Castells discusses at some length the history of the Industrial Revolution(s), drawing a link between technological progress in the past and in the present-day. While Castells spends most of his time focused on the clusters of innovation that occurred (in juxtaposition to a one-time sort of technology explosion), my mind went to a different focus. America famously was caught off-guard by the industrial advances in the 19th century, and antiquated laws needed to desperately be updated. This led to an intense amount of exploitation (and eventually the rise of unions and the creation of child labor laws – Newsies, anyone?). It took time to recover. It took time for the laws to catch up with the advances. So my question is this: will we see a similar struggle to cope with technological advances? Will we see (have we already seen?) forms of exploitation that we have yet to litigate (do copyright and intellectual property laws fall under this struggle)?

    In From Reading to Social Computing, Liu tracks the reader from a more passive role to a highly interactive one. Something that struck me is the inclusion of literary criticism in the 1960s, as it famously focused less on the author and took a turn for deconstruction. Essentially, as Liu concludes, readers have a coauthor role, they’re experience and input is as valued as the author’s, and they now have an opportunity to share it. However, and perhaps it isn’t surprising that this is my perspective, I worry that this sort of “reader-focused” attitude has minimized the need for qualification and can give a voice to those who, dare I say it, shouldn’t be speaking on the issue (whatever that issue may be). While we’re still struggling with the credibility of online product reviews, we’re supposed to embrace the idea of readers as coauthors. I struggle with that. How can we ensure that the reader is credible and honest? Or should that be up for another reader to decide? Should we all be greater skeptics when entering an online arena? Now that false narratives (conspiracy theories?) are given more weight, and credible sources are questioned without reason, is it up to us to decide what’s true or not (if a truth can be determined)?

    Lastly, Liu mentioned a Facebook-oriented project that was basically a retelling of Romeo and Juliet through the Facebook platform. I’ve seen a similar undertaking and absolutely loved it. But here’s my question: as we often struggle with the Jurassic Park concept of “just because we can doesn’t mean we should,” does this project actually deepen the understanding of Shakespeare’s most famous love story? Sure, it modernizes it, and adds a level of humor, but what is its purpose? Liu states that the purpose was to give the kids a directorial challenge, but I fail to see how this would enlighten the students in a way that simply directing it on a stage wouldn’t. This seems no different to me than the countless 90s modern teen remakes of Shakespeare plays, and while they are thoroughly entertaining, I’m not sure they were that educational. And without exploring what gets lost in the translation, aren’t you doing a disservice to the original?

  2. Lauren November 6, 2016 at 8:04 pm

    In Liu article mentions many of the advantages of the collaborative or social scholar – when citing the idea of things like Wikipedia, it claims that these empower the “rule of many” or “wisdom of crowds”. This uses the primary notion that people as a crowd should be more trusted than a heavily filtered expert (take the more tradition approach to publishing which must have work fact checked and undergo many revision processes). is there really wisdom in the crowd? how does that play into the current trend of all news having their model be around clickbait?

    Building on that piece one of the things that I kept revisiting in the article with Liu is who and how is credit given when thinking about the social scholar? how are you able to attribute who does which work? and then what about the masks people can live behind via the web? is there a risk of losing the scholar credit? is that a concept of the past and really should we be only focusing on the compounding nature of work and the ability to progress at a quicker rate?

  3. Anna November 7, 2016 at 12:44 am

    In The Rise of the Network Society,
    Interesting read before the elections !!! I am still unsure how the author links Innovation in technology, culture and capitalism or the material wealth of a country ?

    In Demystifying networks Part I & II,

    About RDF Triples, the subject, predicate and object all nodes ? In the example “Moretti is an author of Graphs, Maps, and Trees” can’t we just use the example from before when Moretti is the node “author” and “Graphs, Maps and Trees” the node book and then “is the author of” the relationship?

    In part II when referring to the “isolated” node, is it still relevant to count this node as part of the network since it doesn’t have any relationship with the others?

  4. Zejun November 7, 2016 at 11:48 am

    Q1. In the “Extending Degree” section, Weingart gives an example of combining degree with edge weights. In the metaphor that he used to illustrate the concept, Steve is connected to Sally four times, Sam twice and Salvador six times. Should Steve’s weight be 12 instead of 8? I am quite confused about the part Weingart says 4+2+6=8

    Q2. Weingart points out by the time he wrote this article; there is no existing model to capture the multifaceted nature of humanity data. I am wondering since then, is there any discovery?

    Q3. In “From Reading to Social Computing,” Liu envisions that social computing will change the paradigm of literary reading and research. As social networking tools also serve as scholarly research tools, the weights of nodes in the literary sociality have been decentralized and rebalanced. Does the paradigm shift entirely? Do users achieve co-authorship despite various underlying censorship, validation, and sampling strategy?

  5. Leslie November 8, 2016 at 10:26 am

    In the prologue of Rise of the Network Society, Castells writes about the distinction between pre-industrialism, industrialism, and informationalism (or post-industrialism): “While societies can be characterized along the two axes (so that we have industrial statism, industrial capitalism, and so on), it is essential for the understanding of social dynamics to maintain the analytical distance and empirical interrelation between modes of production (capitalism, statism) and modes of developments (industrialism, informationalism)…This book studies the emergence of a new social structure, manifested in various forms, depending on the diversity of cultures and institutions throughout the planet” (14).Throughout the reading, this interested me very much, the idea that different cultures at different points in time reconfigure, in a way. Because there are different reactions, if you will, does that mean that Castells has found a sort of nuanced antithesis to technological determinism?

    In “Demystifying Networks,” Scott Weingart writes, “When you’re given your first hammer, everything looks like a nail. Networks can be used on any project. Networks should be used on far fewer. Networks in the humanities are experiencing quite the awakening, and this is due in part to the until-recently untapped resources of easy tools and available datasets. There is a lot of low-hanging fruit out there on the networks+humanities tree, and they ought to be plucked by those brave and willing enough to do so. However, that does not give us an excuse to apply networks to everything. This series will talk a little bit about when hammers are useful, and when you really should be reaching for a screwdriver.” I’m still a little fuzzy on the difference between weighted/directed and unweighted/undirected networks. I know it has something to do with relationships between nodes. Because I don’t quite understand this yet, I still don’t get when to use a hammer or a screwdriver, as Weingart puts it above. Could we discuss the difference in class and can you help me understand how to discern whether a network is the appropriate vehicle for presenting certain types of information?

    In “From Reading to Social Computing,” Liu writes, “First, literary scholars will need to do considerable homework to make social computing a relevant object of study, something worth looking into in its own right. This will be a challenge because it is a matter not just of borrowing concepts from social computing with relevance to literary study but of properly framing social computing and literature together as parts of an integral object of study.” I’m thinking about the DH meeting on Friday and I’m wondering, what other schools and departments country-/world-wide have made concerted efforts to bring social computing into their programs? Is there a school or network of schools (beside those in California) that can be seen as a frontrunner in this new area or at least innovative? Are there opportunities for PhD level work in the digital humanities specifically, or is it now an aspect of individual departments rather than a vein of study itself? (Asking for a friend).

  6. Cristina November 8, 2016 at 12:26 pm

    1. Castell’s gives detailed examples of the role of the state in stimulating or stagnating technological advancement within autonomous nations. On page 18, Castells differentiates a unique quality in informationalism: “Because informationalism is based on the technology of knowledge and information, there is an especially close link between culture and productive forces, between spirit and matter, in the information mode of development.” In light of this, what can be said about the various regulatory interventions by the United States government into cultural markets such as trafficking and sales of music, movies and software. How does this particular intersection of network and market change the interests of the state?

    2. Can informationalism be argued to be a later, more-developed stage of industrialism, as post-modernism can be argued to exist as a more mature, fully-formed modernism? On page 38, Castells acknowledges a continuum by which the industrial era extended reach of the body while the information era makes a similar progress on the mind. If a single trajectory can be argued, how is the relationship between “culture and productive forces, between spirit and matter” reconciled to encompass the industrial revolution?

    3. Some questions about Scott B Weingart’s “Demystifying Networls, Parts I & II”
    a. I’m trying to reconcile the description of hypergraphs and multigraphs to relational database modeling. How do one-to-many relationships and many-to-many relationships represent themselves here? Are hypergraphs one-to-many representations and multigraphs many-to-many relationships? What is the flaw in that comparison?
    b. What about RDF is Weingart skeptical about? Simply its multimodal quality? Why wouldn’t this essay be the place to discuss the shortcomings of RDF, or semantic web modeling in general?

  7. kcauley November 8, 2016 at 12:40 pm

    In regards to Castells’ discussion of surplus on page 16, is ‘big data’ analogous to the traditional surplus of the industrial age? What are some examples of big data as surplus if different modes of production (capitalism vs. statism) and how is that surplus managed differently by various nations?

    This excerpt stood out to me in the Weingart blog, ‘If humanists care more about the differences than the regularities, more about what makes an object unique rather than what makes it similar, that is the very information they are likely to lose by defining their objects as nodes.’ To me, this fit in perfectly with Castells’ discussion of individual and communal self-identity. If it is human nature to differentiate ourselves, is the information age endangering humanity as we know it? Does an information surplus allow for greater breadth of human identity or just intensifies a need to compartmentalize humans?

  8. Ariel November 8, 2016 at 3:25 pm

    While reading the Castells piece, I couldn’t help but think about what technological innovations we see today that are a result of our government’s own interest in the technology, without me realizing it. It makes sense when he talks about the Chinese producing innovations for an extended period and then under the Ming and Qing dynasties, no longer advancing at the same rate because of the lack of interest by the leaders. This is making me reflect on what do I use today without realizing the government’s involvement in the technology/product?

    In Alan Liu’s article, he brings up that computers were first used/thought of as “ballistic or scientific-calculation machines”, then their use shifted to “business functions originally peripheral to computing: storage, filing, sorting and printing”, next they became “universal communication devices and media players”, and now are used for social computing. Given their heavy use for social computing today, what will the next use for them be, if any? Is there anything left after the social uses?

    This is somewhat tangential but still applies to the content in Liu’s article. He talks about “social computing as an object of study.” While I was reading this part of his article, I continually thought about how we study cultures of the past through physical remains whether they be drawings, items used in cultural rituals, journals, etc. Will our society be one day analyzed by our online social presence? Access to the web has never been higher, and although not all have access to it, there is a significant amount of data that has been uploaded and shared. What will people years from now think of Twitter conversations or Facebook albums? Will they be more vain than us and as a result, see no problem with the vanity of Instagram, or will they be disgusted by the amount of time our society invests in publishing ourselves?

  9. Whitney November 8, 2016 at 5:58 pm

    1.) Castells, while a *bit* melodramatic (i.e., talks of “black holes of human misery in the global econ”), makes an interesting claim about the regrouping around primary identities; however, my initial reaction to his assertion that people as a whole are identifying with primary social denominators like religion, ethnicity, and nationality above all else is to oppose him. While he may very well be right to an extent, I don’t think that he’s telling the whole story when it comes to younger generations, at least. There has definitely been a surge in ethnocentric pride, but I feel as though I see people, as a whole, relating much more strongly to a global identity than to a nationally specific one. Does anyone else feel likewise?

    2.) I also had issues with Castells’ argument that postmodern culture (if he is using that term to mean contemporary culture) and theory is indulging in celebrating the end of history and of reason and that people are “giving up on our capacity to understand and make sense, even of nonsense”. Very specifically, this brings to mind the election this year and all of the chaos that has surrounded it. But it seems to me that people are trying very hard to make sense of all the nonsense – but, maybe that is what is causing even more instances of nonsense. The world can’t possibly have fallen into complete nihilism yet, right?

    3.) Liu mentions the date May 1968 sever times in his article as a turning point for the democratization of literary theory. Was there a very obvious occurrence that happened during this time that I am ignorant of?

  10. Shoshanah November 8, 2016 at 6:20 pm

    “If I had a hammer,
    I’d hammer in the morning
    I’d hammer in the evening
    All over this land.”

    In ‘Demystifying Networks Parts I and II” Weingart begins saying, “When you’re given your first hammer everything looks like a nail. Networks can be used on any project. Networks should be used on far fewer.” This is something we’ve touched on in class discussions already; just because you can doesn’t mean you should. In modernizing classical theatre this is common debate. Just because you can set Romeo and Juliet on Mars doesn’t mean you should. So how do we determine when networks should be used?

    In ‘From Reading to Social Computing’ Liu continues this line of inquiry saying, “a successful online reading environment would integrate Social Networking tools in a way that extends readers’ existing strategies.” Liu asks how does literature “inflect, extend, or criticize the culturally dominant tools and practices of vernacular social computing?” Stringing Weingart and Liu together, one might ask how do networks and social computing inflect, extend or criticize the current analog model of reading? Is this a nail we should be hitting with a hammer, or should we go in search of a screwdriver?

    Thinking about Google books, I wonder if there is anything gained or lost in the experience of reading a book on google vs from a traditional library? Does easy-access trump tangibility?

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