Because of the complexity of both concepts of the network and the rhizome and also because these are relatively new concepts in both social media specifically and in human history generally, this post will explain and deconstruct each separately and will conclude by showing their similarities, differences and functions.
Definition of a Network – According to Castells, “a network is a set of interconnected nodes. A node is a point at which it intersects itself “(620). Both terms depend on the surrounding structures, but are open to constant expansion. According to Levina and Kine, “From pop culture to scientific research to border regulation, governance, entertainment, production and consumption, almost every identifiable facet of human and post-human life has been affected by a network paradigm” (Levina 7). A network is different from previous social structures in that it is not hierarchical. Essentially, everyone exists on the same plane. Power is egalitarian in theory but not in function because there are people who control greater access the network. Castells later elaborates: “Switches connecting the networks (for example, financial flows taking control of media empires that influence political processes) are the privileged instruments of power” (ST 621). The internet is the greatest example in that all types of information could be accessible to anybody online, but access to the information can be limited by bandwidth, signal strength, or censorship. As Castells points out, our culture has become centred around social media networks, like Facebook. What began as an exclusive system within the Ivy League expanded to include more colleges and universities, but it remained as an exclusive network of college students. Today, it is open to anyone over the age of 13.
The ubiquitous presence of the iPod in society shows us the physical manifestation of a large network that goes into making the product. In order to make an iPod, numerous factories throughout China specialize and make individual elements of the finished product: one factory makes the chips, another designs the skin, another mines for plastics and metals and other elements that comprise the brain and the body of the iPod. Once it is finished a distribution network comes into play to get it from the sites of production to the sites of consumption. It must be shipped through various international ports to arrive at your local Apple Store. Lastly, you drive your car or ride your bike to the Apple store and purchase it.
Castells notes: “Thus distance (physical, social, economic, political, cultural) for a given point or position” is irrelevant. However, the two points can connect/communicate only if they are within the network. It is a binary system of inclusion and exclusion. Let’s consider excommunication in the Catholic Church as a pre-existing example of this paradigm. The Catholic Church excommunicates heretics, let’s say, and if an individual suffers this he is not simply banished from a specific church, he is excluded from the Catholic Church as an institution and is out of the network.
The network is constantly trying to protect itself. Let’s consider last week’s discussion: Life is the most important commodity in Empire, which consolidate power to preserve peace so that life can be produced and controlled like all other commodities It’s a major network working toward preserving itself. To be alive is to be part of Empire network. To preserve life is to preserve Empire Network. To attack life is to attack Empire Network. Resistance always comes from within like a virus. Terrorism is attacked against the body of the Empire and suicide bombing is the ultimate attack. The body of the empire is the site of conflict between the preservation of life and self destruction.
Finally, the last thing about a Network is that all global networks are connected by a single thing: capital. Essentially, Marx’s socialist workers’ revolution is impossible. Labor is divided into specialized compartments and all are connected to a network of capital...Capital tends to escape in its hyperspace of pure circulation, while labor dissolves its collective entity into an infinite variation of individual existences. Under conditions of network society, capital is globally coordinated and labor is individualized (Castells 622-23).
The article “Rhizome Versus the Tree” articulates the rhizomatic structures within society. Deleueze organized the characteristic of the rhizome into five different sections.
In the principles of connection and heterogeneity section, literally what the rhizome vs. the tree represents is a difference in methods of communication. For instance, the rhizome is always in the middle: “Unlike trees or their roots, the rhizome connects one point to any other point, and its traits aren’t necessarily linked to traits of the same nature” (35). In the words of Deleuze, the tree represents a linear and genealogical information system, whereas a rhizome has a multi-dimensional function, it is always “in the middle.” It is also called an “antigenealogy.” This means that rhizome cannot be traced from a beginning to and end – i.e. it is not a line segment.
Let us consider the fields of linguistics and/or informational studies. In a linguistic in tree system, everything is organized, structured, and self-contained within finite boundaries. In a rhizome system, however, a linguistic system is diverse, fluctuating, colloquial, and centered upon jargon and patois (Deleuze 30).
In the third section, the principle of multiplicity states that a rhizome is indivisible. You can examine an abstracted fragment, but it always has to be considered in relation to the infinite whole. As Deleuze states: “A multiplicity has neither subject nor object, only determinations, magnitudes, and dimensions that cannot increase in number without the multiplicity changing in nature. Deleuze uses the metaphor of the relationship between a puppet and its puppet master. It is not simply the puppeteer manipulating the strings; it also has to do with the interaction between the nervous system of the puppet master, his/her subtle manipulation of certain parts of the handles attached to the strings which in turn sends motion waves down the strings and into the puppet. The gravity and movement of the puppet in turn send signals back up the strings, into the handles attached to the strings, through the hands and back into the nervous system of the puppeteer. This is a perfect representation of a rhizome system because signals and information are not merely the interplay of signals received and then forwarded and returned; it is a constant fluctuation of communication and interaction.
Another way to conceptualize the rhizome vs. tree comparison is to compare an encyclopedia to Wikipedia. A tree structure is more similar to an encyclopedia, not only because it is printed on paper, but also because the book is a finite structure with certain rules: it is a physical object, it cannot be amended once it’s been printed and published, the authors are limited in the amount of information it can contain; it has to exist as a representation of all the information in existence at a given point in time, and even then it has to be limited in scope to adhere the structures of the encyclopedic format.
In contrast, Wikipedia exists as a rhizome structure because it does not exist as a physical object, there is not an annual edition, and it exists as a constant and variable flow of information (new pages, citations, and articles are verified and re-verified on a constant basis). A page can be updated real time almost concurrent to the action or information that it is covering. For instance, during the 2009 State of the Union address, the Republican South Carolina Congressman Joe Wilson called out President Obama by shouting, “YOU LIE!” Almost instantaneously, his Wikipedia page was updated to include that event in both his and the country’s life. The update of new information is what Deleuze calls the asignifying rupture. This means that a rhizome can be broken but it will continue from the old line or with a new line into many different directions or flights of path. For instance, if we change a Wikipedia page by adding or omitting information, it experiences an asignifying rupture, and a rupture occurs again when another Wikipedia user updates the information. This constantly evolving process is never truly finished; it is always “in the middle.” In contrast, an encyclopedia doesn’t experience this rupture. If you tear a page from the encyclopedia, it has become irrevocably altered. The information cannot simply continue. The information on that page is lost and cannot be amended.
This asignifying rupture is in the middle of his fourth concept which explains the idea of deterritorialization and reterritorialization. The old meaning is stripped away, new meaning is applied, and the new eventually becomes old and is replaced by a “newer new.” In this day and age, there are innumerable examples of this de/reterritorialization. For example, “the High Line in NYC was a former elevated freight railroad spur that connected directly to factories and warehouses, allowing trains to roll right inside buildings. Milk, meat, produce, and raw and manufactured goods could be transported and unloaded without disturbing traffic on the streets” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_Line_%28New_York_City%29). After falling into disrepair because of disuse, the High Line has been reconstituted into a public greenway.
Another example of de/reterritorialization is the evolution or rock music. Rock’s roots are steeped in Delta blues, country pickin’, and, to an extent, New Orleans jazz. When these different musical genres formed its elemental structure in Memphis, it became rock ‘n roll. However, with the advent of television and other forms of media such as record players, rock concerts, etc., the musical genre was deterritorialized and subsequently reterritorialized within different cities and countries all over the world. For instance, the Beatles picked up on rock in the late 1950s Liverpool by attainting bootleg copies of R & B, country, and rock records while also being influenced by Elvis Presley. Rock music deterritorialized the musical traditions that influenced the Beatles growing up – big band, skiffle, English folk music for example. When they latched onto rock, they reterritorialized rock music to suit their environment. Later in their career as they began to evolve their musical sound, they underwent a new process of de/reterritorialization process that continued throughout their career as Beatles and even into their solo careers.
The fifth and last principle of Deleuze’s rhizome is the principle of cartography. Here he compares the rhizome to a map (Deleuze 35). He goes on to say: “The map is open and connectible in all of its dimensions; it is detachable, reversible, susceptible to constant modification...it always has multiple entryways” (Deleuze 35). This means that your view of the map depends on your orientation: how far you want to go and how much you want to see. A map can be as small as a plan for a house yet can be expanded to encompass city, county, state, nation or the world. GoogleMaps is the perfect manifestation of a rhizomatic map.
Lastly, we will briefly on Deleuze’s article “Postscript on Control Societies.” He begins by tracing Foucault’s analysis of the transition from the carceral/disciplinary society to a control society. A carceral/disciplinary society focuses on “various places or sites of confinement,” while the control society operates through constant variations and modulations of observation (178). This relates to the panopticon that we discussed in class. As he further demonstrates, the control society is manifested economically. We are no longer dealing with the duality of masses and individuals; individuals become “dividuals” and masses become samples, data, and markets and/or banks. For example, the principle of money: in a disciplinary society, money was manifested as molded currencies or upon a gold standard; in a control society, money manifests itself through exchange rates and modulations depending on the market forces. This is why the recent uprisings in Egypt/Libya have caused oil prices to spike, and why the catastrophe in Japan has halted the production of automobiles.
In conclusion, the network and rhizome are similar concepts of communication, production, and information dissemination. The network has historically had a more ubiquitous and oft-used function in society. The rhizomatic structure has existed primarily as a theoretical application. We have demonstrated a few of their operations such as the network of iPod production and distribution; we have also shown the rhizomatic structure present in internet informational systems such as Wikipedia.