Geert Lovink – Networks Without a Cause: A Critique of Social Media

Geert Lovink

Polity, ISBN: 9780745649689, 220 pages, 2012, English
Geert Lovink’s network theories have regularly found their way into academic publishing over the last decade, during another decade of life for the networks themselves. Here Lovink effectively interweaves his own research with stimuli from the multiple initiatives he has regularly coordinated, such as “Video Vortex” (about online video culture), “Society of the Query” (discussing Google paradigms) and “Unlike Us” (concerned with understanding social media monopolies). He discusses, for example, mass anonymity as an antidote to the conformist narcissism and self-promotion on Facebook, reverting blog-style hierarchical comment ecology, developing net radio tools as personal and free in line with those used by net telephony, and finally preserving independent and decentralized networks (or as he and Ned Rossiter defined them once: “orgnets” or “organized networks”). It’s not a don quixotesque attempt, but a challenge to the establishment of the “flow” as a predominant paradigm. “Flow” here is meant as continuous real-time information, killing the historical concept of a “static” internet, with no interest in archiving, but constantly synching with what is new in a constant change, ending with what Lovink defines as an “all out data relativism”. Sometimes he’s maybe too optimistic about a few open source platforms (such as Diaspora) and maybe a little idealistic (how many would really sign off from Facebook?), but this book offers a number of strong points which help to regain focus on establishing and nurturing much-needed alternative networks.