Network Aesthetics

Network Aesthetics

Patrick Jagoda

Print publication date: 2016

ISBN: 9780226346489

Publisher: University of Chicago Press


The language of networks now describes everything from the Internet to terrorist organizations. But even as “network” has become an early-twenty-first century keyword, its overuse has also limited its analytic usefulness. Network Aesthetics shows how popular American cultural forms mediate our experience and promise greater insight into the contemporary network imaginary. The first part of the book looks to narratives from the 1990s and 2000s, including novels such as Don DeLillo’s Underworld, films such as Stephen Gaghan’s Syriana, and television series such as David Simon’s The Wire. All of these works experiment with network form in order to open up thought about the maximal, emergent, and realist aspects of networks in turn-of-the-twentieth-century America. The second part of the book examines video games and digital media artworks that are interactive, nonlinear, procedural, and dependent on networked audiences. New media, including popular video games such as thatgamecompany’s Journey and emergent transmedia storytelling forms, such as alternate reality games, open up thought about the participatory and improvisational dimensions of networks. The book makes its key contributions to the fields of new media theory, literary criticism, and American studies. It revises the long-standing and still common view of networks as control structures that originated in the computing and cybernetics research of the early Cold War. Attention to cultural productions, from novels to video games, complicates clichés of sublime interconnection and illuminates the ordinary, lived aspects of networked life in the late-twentieth and early-twenty-first centuries.