Adrian Mackenzie – Wirelessness, Radical Empiricism in Network Cultures

The MIT Press

The MIT Press, 2010, 256 pp., ISBN-13: 978-0-262-01464-9
After years talking about the revolution in space perception induced by the real time IT networks, the strong industrial trend to go wireless whenever possible has pervaded space and habits. We’re slowly “getting rid of cables”, pushed by the industry as if cables were parasites, but unconsciously changing our culture without being aware of what is really happening technologically. Mackenzie fruitfully questions the use of taking wireless connections and communications for granted (as if they were some obscure “public service”). His definition of “wirelessness” states that it “designates an experience trending toward entanglements with things, objects, gadgets, infrastructures, and services, and imbued with indistinct sensations and practices of network-associated change.” This experience of change is explained well chapter by chapter, through transmission algorithm principles, the physical perception of transmitters, antennas, postcolonial investments in third world countries, wireless coverage and a quantity of other related activities. Moreover his “radical empiricism” is indeed a godsend. He combines a theoretically rigorous approach with empirical considerations, never losing the reader’s interest. Mackenzie delivers an analysis of contemporary networks that is grounded on the visionary idea of a “Hertzian Landscape” by William Mitchell, while tracking the meaning of the disappearing origin of signals, in a compelling style. He probably would have loved the performances of Men In Grey too, but they just came after this important book.