A Glimpse of Nodal Ontology: Media, Art, Globalization
by Sorin Radu Cucu — LaGuardia Community College, CUNY
October 01, 2012 – 00:00
The network evokes two starkly different modern political anxieties: the universality of the community embodied by the democratic revolution could be dismantled by the subversive power of a well-organized secret group; and the weak universalism of pluralistic polity is replaced with the post-human administrative machine. These two visions of power are not in opposition. The apparent anachronism of the former can easily meet the futuristic scenarios of the latter, even in the SF dystopia genre. See, for instance, how the recent revival of the Cold War TV series Battlestar Galactica makes use of this narrative plot: the ship has survived the Cyclone (a post-robotic machine race and a Super-hybrid race) invasion simply because its captain has refused to have it linked to the Computer-Network. The cultural-technologic-political system of the Battlestar is thus immune to the cyber-attack but not to the various power networks that emerge in the social world of the fleet.
In light of the example given above, it is much easier to argue that networks are social and technological, but not political. This possible argument cannot simply be refuted by means of evoking here the catchy title of Wael Ghonim’s Revolution 2.0 or the media story of the ‘Facebook Revolution.’ We acknowledge the role Facebook and Twitter played in the various stages of the 2011 Arab Spring revolutions, but considering the "complex ecologies" through which "the technical properties of electronic interactive domains deliver their utility" (Saskia Sassen) to the formation of networks of meaning and action, that is, to discursive articulation. In order to spot the political network, we do not simply need a modal ontology (according to which the political network exists in one possible world), but a nodal ontology (according to which there are complex nodal points of intersection between the possible worlds and the actual). A glimpse of this matrix of sense is shown by Thomas Saraceno’s work, specifically his 2011 exhibition Cloud Cities, by his singular ability to establish "a dialogue between people, objects and spaces." A metonym of the web of life, technology, and culture, Saraceno’s utopian objects do not assume an overcoming of the messy character of politics but offer an artistic replay of our most sincere global uncertainties, in similar terms (sic!) to Italo Calvino’s intriguing description of Octavia (in Invisible Cities).
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