Deleuze and the Internet

Is the Internet a rhizome? All the straws in the wind say ‘yes’ it is.

“Whereas mechanical machines are inserted into hierarchically organised social systems, obeying and enhancing this type of structure, the Internet is ruled by no one and is open to expansion or addition at anyone’s whim as long as its communication protocols are followed. This contrast was anticipated theoretically by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari especially in A Thousand Plateaus, in which they distinguished between arboreal and rhizomic cultural forms. The former is stable, centred, hierarchical; the latter is nomadic, multiple, decentred – a fitting depiction of the difference between a hydroelectric plant and the Internet.”

There are of course excellent grounds for thinking that the Internet meets some if not all of the basic criteria of the rhizome, which Deleuze and Guattari list as follows:

  • The rhizome connects any point to any other point (connections do not have to be between same and same, or like and like).
  • The rhizome cannot be reduced to either the One or the multiple because it is composed of dimensions (directions in motion) not units. Consequently no point in the rhizome can be altered without altering the whole.
  • The rhizome operates by variation, expansion, conquest, capture and offshoots (not reproduction).
  • The rhizome pertains to an infinitely modifiable map with multiple entrances and exits that must be produced.
  • The rhizome is acentred, nonsignifying, and acephalous.
  • The rhizome isn’t amenable to any structural or generative model.

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About Giorgio Bertini

Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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