Archive for October, 2009

Ab Initio: Swarms

In his text ‘Networks, Swarms, Multitudes‘, Eugene Thacker identifies some of the key aspects of a new constituency emerging from both post-national politics and new technological and biopolitical structures:

* A swarm is an organization of multiple, individuated units with some relation to one another. That is, a swarm is a particular kind of collectivity or group phenomenon that may be dependent upon a condition of connectivity.
* A swarm is a collectivity that is defined by relationality. This pertains as much to the level of the individual unit as it does to the overall organization of the swarm. Relation is the rule in swarms.
* A swarm is a dynamic phenomenon (following from its relationality). This differentiates it from the concept of a “network,” which has its roots in graph theory and spatial modes of mathematically understanding “things” (or nodes) and “relations” (or edges). A swarm always exists in time and, as such, is always acting, interacting, interrelating, and self-transforming. At some level “living networks” and “swarms” overlap.
* A swarm is a whole that is more than the sum of its parts, but it is also a heterogeneous whole. This is not to identify a unified, homogeneous group that serves the heterogeneous needs and desires of individuals. Rather, the principles of self-organization require that the group only arises from the localized, singular, heterogeneous actions of individual units.
* Swarms come with ambiguous politics. The swarm is not the newest term for the concept of the “masses,” the “people,” or the “proletariat”; the parts are not subservient to the whole — both exist simultaneously and because of each other. A swarm may exhibit a discernible global pattern, but this does not mean that a swarm prioritizes the group over the individual. Because of this, a swarm does not exist at a local or global level, but at a third level, where multiplicity and relation intersect.

The ‘Shockwave Riders…’ symposium will critically engage these ideas to debate how global social networks will transform all aspects of society, and map out ways that pedagogy and design can predict, and respond to, some of these changes.

 

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