Anna Munster – An Aesthesia of Networks: Conjunctive Experience in Art and Technology


The MIT Press, ISBN-13: 978-0262018951, English, 248 pages, 2013, USA

Conceiving the essence of networks has been a difficult task even at the beginning of the web. The extended proliferation of amorphous asymmetrical nodes and the powerful imaginary they can trigger has produced a specific public perception of networks. Munster’s intent, instead, is to get rid of the overwhelming concept of the vastness of digital networks (and their omnipresent structure in our society), which, she argues, is inducing a sort of an anesthesia. We should instead immerse ourselves in the qualities inherent in networks, including their (very complex) relationality,  trying to understand“how networks experience” and in doing so triggering our ability to perceive sensations, or “aesthesia”. The construction of this discourse through the chapters is remarkably interesting. Assuming that a network representation can’t prescind from time (and so can’t be static), Munster investigates diagrammatic mapping and its recursion and redundancy, continuing with an in-depth analysis of the cultural implications of Google Earth, and how it symbolizes the multifaceted values of a networked infrastructure actively involving a mass of users in its participatory enrichment. The essential role of the database is then further explored in terms of data mining practices and its“networked relationality”. Spontaneous viral phenomenon and their intrinsic qualities, as well as neuroscience as a model of very efficiently networked information complete a deep investigation, supported by a careful selection of artworks supporting her original and visionary discourse.