Betty Joseph, English Department, Rice University
“Network Society: What Novels Teach us About the Task of Tracing Associations”
How does contemporary literature represent the age of computers, mass media and information processing given that these technologies are markedly less photogenic than the great visual spectacles of railways and steamships of the industrial world-system that preceded our postmodern age? Are contemporary ideas about networks solutions to this problem of representation or do they signal a deeper ontological problem by assuming that networks are a new form of social organization? This lecture discusses the current fascination with “networks” in literature, in two ways: first, network as a technological allegory that stands in for the unimaginable, decentered nature of the contemporary world itself, and second, network as an ideological response to the totalizing nature of global capital today.