Centre for Internet & Society

The Habits of Living Thinkathon (Thinking Marathon) is being hosted by the Centre for Internet and Society in Bangalore, India, from September 26 to 29, 2012. The event brings together a range of multi-disciplinary scholars and practitioners. The aim of the workshop is to generate a dialogue on the notion of surrogate structures that have become visible landmarks of contemporary life, and to produce new conceptual frameworks to help us understand networks and the ways in which they inform our everyday practice and thought.

Akansha Rastogi changes the pace of the afternoon session with a lecture—nay, a performance—on the form in exhibition spaces. Using language that can only be called poetry, she leads us through the biology of an image, and asks us to archive the image to the point of exhaustion and non-meaning. Though image analysis, she helps us to think about images through how they are accessed, to read their stories through their creators, their viewers, their past and present and their correspondences with the elements inside and out of the exhibition space—everything but the actual meaning of the image as art.

Towards the end of her presentation, Rastogi switches from prose to a discussion of her work, in which she divulged to us that many of the images she works with are from events that she was not involved in, and that she approached them as an outsider, a lurker. This allowed her to imagine and map the networks that were implicated in the exhibitions.

The participants were very pleased by the form that Rastogi had used in her presentation, though a debate was generated around whether or not it was art piece. Another artist in the crowd interpreted it as a performance lecture, and was critical of the discussion of Rastogi’s work in the end. Other participants and Rastogi herself defended the discussion of the project in the end, as it was useful in helping the participants understand the layers and context of the documentation.

Another large discussion that was spurred by the performance was centered on the method of network mapping that Rastogi put forward, and whether or not the claim that we must be outside of a network to see it is valid or not. Further, participants debated the role that locationality played in the mapping of networks, especially if networks could be mapped from within.

Participants were also interested in the concepts of “parasite” in the performance and its relation to surrogacy. While it was almost universally agreed that surrogacy was a troublesome concept that required further study, there was general contention around whether characterized terms like “parasite” or “epiphyte” were useful for discussion of surrogacy, and if more useful conceptualizations of surrogacy needed to move beyond the use of bounded language.

I was very intrigued by the discussions of inclusion and exclusion in the viewing and mapping of networks. Like many participants, I found the claims of required exclusion in order to view a network to be problematic. I agree that it may be easier to perceive a network when we are on the outside of it, but I don’t agree that it’s a pre-requisite. I think that this sort of “logical-academic” way of thinking about networks—that we need to be in a position of study, which requires an overview of all the various bits and pieces—places networks in an essence of structure that I am not sure is useful or not. Maybe the ability to see only certain parts of a network, which may be a position we find ourselves in when we are part of the network, is a better way of understanding the network, particularly its locationality, its presence, and its purpose, than comprehending it through the identification of all of its parts (i.e.: mapping).

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