Friday, June 18, 2004

Social Networks / Issue Networks Part 2

Noortje Marres responds to my recent post and is kind enough to allow me to post it here as well:

[T]here are two points I think might need some clarification from my side.

First, the analogy you draw between issue-networks and meetup.com. What is distinctive about the issue-network to me, is that it brings together actors whose commitments are irreconcilable (at least for the moment). An example is a network which implicates US farmers and European vegetarians into the controversy around GM Food : their interests are virtually opposed, and for this reason they are implicated in precisely, an affair. An issue-network is thus different from a shared interest network.

Second, there is the question of what exactly is meant when we refer to the formal aspects of politics. You sum this up by the terms centralization and institutionalization, and there is certainly a point to that. But formalities are also far more slippery and free-floating than that: formalities can be mobilized (i.e. a key sentence from a report), and the same goes for information format (i.e. "the leak").

Formalities are in that sense a resource for politics, for institutional as well as extra-institutional actors.

But reading your comments, I am especially happy to find that you take up what is to me that main point of my short text: that only if we explore how information technologies allow us to relate to, and bring out, the substance of issues, can we really begin appreciate their pertinence to politics.

Cool. Interesting point about issue-networks as different from shared-interest-networks. I really like the idea of being *implicated* in an affair, a sort of tense intimacy I have written about before. And the second point is fascinating. I had been thinking only of politics as practice - not as (informational) objects or events. Thanks Noortje!

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