16:45 - 17:15
If Everything is a Network, Nothing is a Network

Short thesis

Trapped in an imaginary web of NODES and EDGES we have come to visualize much of our lives and relationships in terms of the simplistic network diagram. Networks aren't bad, they are just drawn that way. Yet their iconic visual representation and its gross misinterpretation have contributed much to our eroding privacy and political agency under the myth of Big Data and all knowing algorithms. It is time for us to challenge the network and its PROTOCOLS rather than blindly go with the FLOW.


Networks are very confusing, but it seems like they are here to stay. Out of both admiration and dread we've increasingly fetishized the network diagram to become the mystical representation of Big Data. We look to the network as the all-wise oracle, it demands our data sacrifice, a lot of it, and if it is well fed, and as long as we wisely formulate our queries, it will deliver us the answer we're looking for. Or would it?

As they grow, networks become more complex, going way beyond the limits of what our eyes can query. We are then forced to use algorithms to analyze these vast bodies of data. Yet, network algorithms do not see points connected by lines, while we humans cannot even imagine networks without visualizing a net. Can we go beyond the myth of big data embedded in the network diagram? Can we go beyond the web of nodes and edges to also visualize the network flow and the protocols that govern it? How can we develop a more humanist, political and critical approach to thinking, drafting and constructing networks?

This talk accompanies an article written for Tactical Tech Collective's Exposing The Invisible and Visualizing Advocacy.