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Control and Fear in Post-Global Network

Control and Fear in Post-Global Network

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Our present millennium began with the Y2K scare, inducing widespread anx- iety about a potential collapse of the hybrid digital and economic global net- work so carefully constructed throughout the latter part of the 20th century. As Charlie Gere (2002) points out, Y2K brought with it a sudden popular aware- ness of how much we had come to depend on this global system for our sur- vival, and the extent to which the operational concept of a global digital and economic network had come to displace traditional linear notions of hierarchy, authority and power. The following year, the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, DC introduced a new concern into our milieu of cultural narratives, serving as a coming out for an enemy that was said to be just as globally-networked and invisible as the system we depend upon for our daily sustenance—and just as unpredictably unmanageable.

Our present millennium began with the Y2K scare, inducing widespread anx- iety about a potential collapse of the hybrid digital and economic global net- work so carefully constructed throughout the latter part of the 20th century. As Charlie Gere (2002) points out, Y2K brought with it a sudden popular aware- ness of how much we had come to depend on this global system for our sur- vival, and the extent to which the operational concept of a global digital and economic network had come to displace traditional linear notions of hierarchy, authority and power. The following year, the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, DC introduced a new concern into our milieu of cultural narratives, serving as a coming out for an enemy that was said to be just as globally-networked and invisible as the system we depend upon for our daily sustenance—and just as unpredictably unmanageable.

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Published by: Communication and Media Studies on Jul 21, 2013
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Our present millennium began with the Y2K scare, inducing widespread anx-iety about a potential collapse of the hybrid digital and economic global net- work so carefully constructed throughout the latter part of the 20th century. AsCharlie Gere (2002) points out, Y2K brought with it a sudden popular aware-ness of how much we had come to depend on this global system for our sur- vival, and the extent to which the operational concept of a global digital andeconomic network had come to displace traditional linear notions of hierarchy,authority and power. The following year, the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, DCintroduced a new concern into our milieu of cultural narratives, serving as acoming out for an enemy that was said to be just as globally-networked andinvisible as the system we depend upon for our daily sustenance—and just asunpredictably unmanageable. Where Y2K had illustrated the potential for benign technological catastro-phe, 9/11 showed the world that the global network was also susceptible tointentional human acts of subversion and sabotage. A rash of science fictionmedia narratives such as
Battlestar Galactica 
(2004),
 I, Robot 
(2004),
Terminator 3
(2003), and others, reflected a popular paranoia about the vulnerability of rely-ing on the network.
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Unable to pin down a singular, containable enemy in thetraditional sense, the descriptor ‘network’ became conceptually configured as asingularized enemy, something to be “brought down.” But here we have an irony 
INTRODUCTION
MARINA LEVINA 
&
GRANT KIEN
Control and Fear inPost-Global Network
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brought on by a conflict in signification. The post-global network both overt-ly denotes danger, while at the same time more subtly connoting freedom.
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Even while contending with the newly-discovered vulnerability of beingnetworked and actively fighting “the terrorist network,” new “social” network technologies have continued to proliferate, enabled by Web 2.0 programs suchas Facebook and YouTube, MMORGS like World of Warcraft, convergenceacross and between various media platforms, and ever increasing levels of glob-al economic and cultural networks. In spite of its known vulnerabilities and dan-gers, the masses have continued to cavort with the enemy. We fear it and fightit, even while we crave it and embrace it as a positive force in our lives. In spiteof this tension (perhaps even assisted by it), network has come into its own asa state of mind and a way of life—in sum, a cultural norm. FromBarackobama.com to GoogleHealth to Twitter, a multitude of cultural andindividual activities have become seamlessly reconfigured and woven into theever-shifting spatial ambiguity and temporal presence of our hybrid global net- work. As a result, it is no longer fitting to examine the network as an externalforce, but rather as a somewhat banal aspect of our everyday environment. Wenot only performatively inhabit and enact moment to moment, we have alsoembraced the reality of being globally networked as a prevailing logic in oureveryday experiences. Network, therefore, should not simply be conceptualizedas a singularity or a technological entity, but rather as an always-already amor-phous condition of life itself. As crucial as the chips and wires that comprise andconnect the appliances we use, we everyday users are a fundamental componentof network. So complete is its weaving into global economics, communicationsand our everyday lives—indeed, even our ontology 
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—that we here claim to beliving in a state of post-global network. This book project was originally inspired by a conversation about the zom-bie apocalypse film
 28 Weeks Later 
(2007)
.
 A sequel to the popular
 28 Days Later 
(2003), the movie portrays London twenty-eight weeks after the “rage” virus
4
that destroyed England by turning the majority of the population into the“infected”—aka zombies—was effectively contained and eradicated. In thesequel, US-led military forces reopen London for repopulation. Forming a“Green Zone” inside the city (a heavily surveilled, guarded, and regulated ter-ritory), the military allows limited numbers of refugees to return to their home-town. However, repopulation and re-containment fail as the virus reappears inthe population. In a desperate attempt to reestablish dominance, the military gives up on selective elimination of the “infected” and instead issues the com-mand: “Abandon selective targeting. Shoot everything. Targets are now free….We’ve lost control.” This particular scene in which the enemy is nolonger discernable from the general populace, and the chosen military is the solu-tion to the problem, highlighted one of the key questions that prompted this
|
POST 
-
GLOBAL NETWORK AND EVERYDAY LIFE 
Levina & Kien_Levina & Kien.qxd 1/14/2010 8:44 PM Page 2
 
book project: What is control in the context of network? The phrase “We’ve lost control” represents an anxiety we consider to be dis-cernable at the heart of efforts to contain and control threats in the post-9/11,post-global network era.
 28 Weeks Later 
exemplifies the futility of modern war-fare in post-global, viral conditions of terrorism, epidemics, and cyberwars. The ‘enemy’ is indistinguishable from the general populace, and hence theamorphous multitude itself becomes the target. From zombies to zombie-bots,the rise of network society, and with it a system of power relations necessitat-ed by a world in which globalization is a fact of life, the film illustrates an over-arching problematic of what it means to fight for control of a ubiquitous,self-sustaining yet indefinable entity. We argue that this problematic is tetheredto a yet to be fully explored quality of the network as an active, seemingly alivepost-human (i.e., Human-machine hybrid) entity that, by its very nature, com-plicates a hierarchical order of power and knowledge.David Singh Grewal (2008) argues that, as a non-linear power relation, working through decentralized relations of sociability, the network operatesthrough regulations of standards as opposed to the enforcement of a sovereign will. This does not mean that network is democratic. As actor-network theo-rist Bruno Latour (1988) pointed out more than two decades ago, all relationsin network are demonstrated lines of force. Network functions as a diffuse sys-tem of control and regulation operating through a multitude of nodes. Withoutinstitutions to contain it and give it form, network becomes difficult to fix, man-age and control. Moreover, network is more than the accumulation of individ-ual bodies. It is more like what Terranova (2004) refers to as a system of multitude. In this system, she writes:
…you can observe and kill an individual entity, anatomize it, and you still won’tfind out what it is that will make it act in a certain way once it acts as an element within a population open to flows. You can collect as much data as you wantabout individual users, but this won’t give you the dynamic of the overall network (p. 104).
 This system invites, she argues, “the abstract machine of soft control,that facil-itates growth and function of a multitude. Building on Hardt and Negri’s(2000) autonomista discourse, she explores the notion of multitude as a poten-tial for political engagement in the network. Multitude invites a different typeof control from hierarchical systems and therefore different power alliancesand relations. These are made even more slippery in the post-global context.Much like network has become a cultural norm, so too has globalization irrev-ocably changed the world order (in the sense of a one-world government). Andin the context of Hardt and Negri’s
 Empire,
the post-global network necessi-tated the emergence of new sovereignty aimed at controlling multitude. Withprinciples of network organization at its heart, a post-global sovereignty in the
CONTROL AND FEAR IN POST 
-
GLOBAL NETWORK 
|
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