What difference does the ‘social’ make to the network and the network to the ‘social’? Social Network Analysis is usually considered by critical media studies as a regressive ontology of the social, which it reduces to quantifiable relations between individuals and which can be then dismissed to a material enactment of the ideology of neoliberalism. The course proposes a different interpretation of SNS which combines a media archaeology of the stratifications of Internet protocols (from TCP/IP to HTTP to the Open Graph) with a genealogy of social network analysis as a model of society according to a genealogy of the descent (herkunkf) and emergence (entstheung) of the social network as model and medium. The course traces the genealogy of the social network from structural anthropology and sociometry to mathematical studies of the spread of ‘contacts and influence’ in populations towards the more recent turn towards big-data based network science and social physics.
It considers the ways in which this genealogy/archaeology can be seen to produce a shift from the deployment of the social network as metaphor to diagram and finally machine in contemporary hypersocial media assemblages. Is it possible to force an interpretation of the social network which does not reduce it to a manifestation of an underlying neoliberal ideology but also as diagram of relationality inducing a widespread experimental and speculative form of reasoning transversal to humans and machines? Can the networked social be seen as less a collection of individual and more like an entangled milieu entailing the proliferation of ‘differences without separability’ in Denise Ferreira de Silva terms?