DIY or die | Historical genealogy of the network society
Talking about as well as investigating networks has become the determining morphology of our society in recent years. Web 2.0 holds the promise of an essential change, in which the collective intelligence of the users becomes the central resource of individual and community life. Today the question seems to be whether the industrial society is in the middle of a transformation to something entirely new, which by theory is only indicated with the prefix "post". Thus, scientific research has trouble keeping pace with the rapid development of a nascent mode of life and production. Instead of merely technological inventories, we need the critical examination of a social structure which is primarily based on networks. The aim of this work therefore will be the evidence of new forms of subjectivation which produce specific concepts of subjectivity (as in the fields of arts, business or communications) within the digital context. In this sense Foucault's historical genealogy refers to an eminent problem in cultural studies: how could the structuralist premise of unchanging, self-contained loop systems be resolved through the assumption of an open "game" of diverse contingencies. The subject here is not merely the product of cybernetic self-regulation, but is the essential condition for the possibility of these networks. Hence, the acknowledgment of the existence of relations of power and the need to transform them has led to the rise of a cultural movement for which the free flow of information is the fundamental prerequisite of a networked knowledge society. At the interface between technical and social networks new forms of knowledge (Free software, Open source and Open content movement) have emerged which are willing to overwrite the old control regimes with their own codes. "Do it yourself or die" therefore is committed to a certain type of genuine thinking as well as action and refers to a new alliance between creativity, politics and work which has already become the norm in post-industrial societies.
Handling the current discourse over new dynamics of production with Foucault's "theoretical kit" henceforth provides a specific point of view in which the description of the global network society can be confronted with a variety of local forms of knowledge. Thus, at the beginning of the 1990s, a very active media culture scene has been formed to critically discuss the promises and risks of newly built network technologies. This fact shall now be the starting point for the present study, in order to define these pioneer projects as an experimental ground for contemporary forms of subjectivity and to describe the current conception of network society. A focus on media history therefore results from the question of how technology and respectively the discourse over technology can be crucial for social, theoretical and epistemological modeling. The approach of the analysis pursues a double strategy: on the one hand it is necessary to examine the tension between subject, subjectivity and subjectivation on the basis of existing theoretical discussions, on the other hand to explore the relevant material in its positivity. For this purpose, both the analog and online archives of Public Netbase/t0 as well as the archive materials of the Ars Electronica Center are available. The large number of unpublished essays, lectures, videos, live-recordings and interviews (including contributions by Sadie Plant, Manuel de Landa, Anne Balsamo, the Critical Art Ensemble and Hakim Bey), which are able to indicate the discourse of the network pioneers, allow to meet the requirements of historical genealogy as a method of collecting, archiving and structuring. Hence, by means of this rich and complex body of texts and works, the "discursive formation" of the network in its cultural dimension may be analysed, in order to develop a critical theory of network-based subjectivation. The terminology thus derived enables further conclusions to be made about the implicit assumptions of today's network society, as they can be found in media but also academic discourse. Namely, by retracing the threads of the existing dispositif into the early days of network building, current processes of transformation can be put up for discussion. Because only in the interplay of power, truth and subjectivity, can critique emerge as the ability to act vis-à-vis the ruling order - submitting or resisting.