Off the Network
Disrupting the Digital World
Critiques how the Internet, social media, and the digital network change users’ understanding of the world
Off the Network is a fresh and authoritative examination of how the hidden logic of the Internet, social media, and the digital network is changing users’ understanding of the world—and why that should worry us. Ulises Ali Mejias suggests how we might begin to rethink the logic of the network and question its ascendancy.
The digital world profoundly shapes how we work and consume and also how we play, socialize, create identities, and engage in politics and civic life. Indeed, we are so enmeshed in digital networks—from social media to cell phones—that it is hard to conceive of them from the outside or to imagine an alternative, let alone defy their seemingly inescapable power and logic. Yes, it is (sort of) possible to quit Facebook. But is it possible to disconnect from the digital network—and why might we want to?
Off the Network is a fresh and authoritative examination of how the hidden logic of the Internet, social media, and the digital network is changing users’ understanding of the world—and why that should worry us. Ulises Ali Mejias also suggests how we might begin to rethink the logic of the network and question its ascendancy. Touted as consensual, inclusive, and pleasurable, the digital network is also, Mejias says, monopolizing and threatening in its capacity to determine, commodify, and commercialize so many aspects of our lives. He shows how the network broadens participation yet also exacerbates disparity—and how it excludes more of society than it includes.
Uniquely, Mejias makes the case that it is not only necessary to challenge the privatized and commercialized modes of social and civic life offered by corporate-controlled spaces such as Facebook and Twitter, but that such confrontations can be mounted from both within and outside the network. The result is an uncompromising, sophisticated, and accessible critique of the digital world that increasingly dominates our lives.
This is an extraordinary book. The ‘paranodal’ critique made in Off the Network demands that we look both at the social spaces that lie between, and are ignored by, network nodes; at the material basis on top of which supposedly immaterial networks rest, and at the vertical structures of political economic power that control the apparent horizontality of networks. In doing so, Ulises Ali Mejias delivers a devastating intellectual slam against conventional thinking about the Internet from both the left and right.
Nick Dyer-Witheford, coauthor of Games of Empire
Off the Network shows us that centralization of online services is not accidental. Take a look behind the social media noise and read how algorithms condition us. Mejias carves out a post-affirmative theory of networks. No more debates about whether you are a dog or not. Identity is over. Power returns to the center of internet debates. Off the Network disrupts the illusion of seamless participation and sides with the resisters and rejecters. The book teaches us to unthink the network logic. His message: don’t take the network paradigm for granted.
Geert Lovink, author of Networks Without a Cause
Part I. Thinking the Network
1. The Network as Method for Organizing the World
2. The Privatization of Social Life
3. Computers as Socializing Tools
4. Acting Inside and Outside the Network
Part II. Unthinking the Network
5. Strategies for Unmapping Networks
6. Proximity and Conflict
7. Collaboration and Freedom
Part III. Intensifying the Network
8. The Limits of Liberation Technologies
9. The Outside of Networks as Method for Acting in the World
If leaked information about the surveillance program Prism is correct, the U.S. government is treating every citizen of the world as a potential terrorist. If the sign of a true democracy is that even the rights of the criminal, the foreigner and the dissenter are respected, what does that say about a system that violates everyone’s rights because they could be potential threats to the system?