Author Archives: amandastarling

Charts, Maps, Sketches and Graphs – Scenes from #netcologies

October 23rd, 2013 | Posted by amandastarling in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)
Duda/Paine's Sketch of a City

Duda/Paine’s Sketch of a City

Clare sketches Medieval connections

Clare charts Medieval connections

Duda/Paine Architecture Plan

Duda/Paine Architecture Plan

Dr. Moore Graphs Policy Networks

Dr. Moore Graphs Policy Networks

RT: A Twitter Recap by Duke FHI’s Chris Chia

October 21st, 2013 | Posted by amandastarling in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Reblogged with permission from RT: Recent FHI events on Twitter

RT: Recent FHI events on Twitter

Submitted by Christina Chia on Mon, 10/21/2013 – 11:17am
“The Network_Ecologies symposium this past Friday and Saturday (October 18 and 19) had a lively presence on Twitter as well (as one might expect, given its theme!) For now, check out the #netcologies hashtag to reassemble the conversations among the diverse group of scholars, artists, theorists, and practitioners who participated. The symposium is part of Ecology of Networks, a two-year digital scholarship and publication project supported by the PhD Lab in Digital Knowledge and directed by Literature PhD student Amanda Starling Gould. Expect to see the symposium proceedings in a multimedia web-based publication later on!”
Thanks Chris Chia (@ch3chia)!

A post #netcologies Symposium Blog from Barry Peddycord III

October 20th, 2013 | Posted by amandastarling in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Reblogged, with permission, from


“This weekend, I attended yet another conference – this time the Ecology of Networks Symposium held at Duke University (affectionally dubbed “#netcologies” for the livetweeters). The conference was an interesting affair that basically brought folks from every discipline under the sun together to talk about how they interpret and deal with networks in their field, from computer science to genetics to artwork. It was engaging and somewhat provocative, starting off fairly concretely in the morning and drifting into the curious and bizarre by the end of the night.

Originally, I was approached by Amanda to write some about my work in networks, and considering that the topic I had in mind was not specifically addressed during the symposium, I feel genuinely awful for flaking out. Much of the talks emphasized the connectedness of networks – networks as wholes of information that offer a very clear big picture that can’t be seen from the point of view of an individual node. It’s a shame, then, that the point of view of the individual node was not addressed. In a technical sense, working in networks has a lot of uncertainty. We have protocols like ethernet and WiFi that allow our networked devices to communicate, but they have to trust other devices not to violate the protocol in their own self-interest. Nodes have to trust one another in order to work together, and in many cases there isn’t much holding back bad behavior.

The first rule of making a website is to treat every visitor as an enemy and make sure they can’t break your website. In peer-to-peer networks, such as in social media or multiplayer computer games, this doesn’t necessarily work, so you have to make some concessions in order to be a part of the whole – is this other actor playing by the rules? What is the risk for communicating with it? This is touched on slightly by the very first talk of the session, when talking about policy-based networks, but what about emergent networks without hierarchies where a policy can not be encoded and enforced across the entire ecosystem?

Networks are inherently unreliable, so the most we can assume is that the network will make its “best effort” to deliver and receive information. When it comes to programming a node, this uncertainty drives nearly every decision – how often do we check for data? When do we assume we have been disconnected? How do we ensure we are actually talking to who we say we are, and not talking through a malicious eavesdropping intermediary? The talk that got the closest to this idea was the one around the Alternate Reality Game, Speculat1on, where the people participating in the game are no longer sure what is part of the network and what isn’t.

This isn’t to say that I was unhappy about the talk of positive and productive networks. My favorite talk of the entire show was by Patrick LeMieux on the networks of people behind who play games. Despite games being ostensibly a participatory medium, they are treated by their publishers as very one-directional things to be consumed. They can be engaged, but only in the appropriate channels, with modded consoles being banned from the Internet and modders even being sued.

In spite of this, people find ways to turn games into platforms upon which to develop new games, from speedruns of the original Mario Brothers game to the creation of chimeras that use the output of one game as the input of another. What was once simply a game to be played by oneself has become an ingredient in artwork that transcends the rules of games. While I believe in games as systems of rules that define a space (basis behind my research), these are the sorts of emergent “play” that transcends the games’ rules entirely. People are so fascinating.

This was a fun diversion! I met some interesting scholars and look forward to seeing how the digital publication of this work manifests itself. One them that was certainly dominant was the idea of networks as nonlinear modes of interacting and producing information, and it’s only appropriate that the final work will be published as a networked document on Scalar. A big takeaway from this symposium is that the network of interactions of content are worth as much if not more than the content itself, something that hits home for me as it serves as the foundation of educational data mining.”

Thanks to Barry Peddycord III (perhaps better known as @isharacomix) for the fantastic post-symposium post!


Network_Ecologies Symposium Teaser

Artist, designer, scholar Florian Wiencek will introduce our Symposium with a private Friday evening presentation on using digital media for cultural learning. Stay tuned for information – this talk might be webcast!

“Digital Cultural Learning: Traversing Networks and Activating the Archive”

The idea of the network is central for our information society. From the Internet, over archives to knowledge: all can be perceived and analyzed as networks.

In my talk I will explore the idea of the network in these different areas and will discuss how it can be employed for cultural learning. Therefore I am departing from the concepts of Connectivism (George Siemens) and “Critical Mediation of Art” (Carmen Mörsch) and will discuss examples of the use of digital media for cultural learning and co-creative knowledge generation, in order to meet the challenges, which participatory culture presents for cultural institutions.

Network_Ecologies Symposium Teaser

Architect Turan Duda will be expanding on our Seven Wonders Network_Ecologies Interview in his Saturday morning presentation.

“Seven Wonders, A network of ideas (conceptual) and memories (experiential)”

As Architects, we are often asked to reside in two worlds simultaneously.
We are trained to think analytically in the abstract world of geometry, physics, and problem solving.
And yet, as human beings, we experience the world with our bodies and all our senses.
It is ultimately the attribution of meaning that binds these two worlds together.

What are the tools of design thinking that provide the means for integrating these contrasting realms of scale, typology and experience?

Networking the NES: Beyond the Dark Age of Digital Games

October 13th, 2013 | Posted by amandastarling in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Network_Ecologies Symposium Teaser

Artist, game designer, and Duke Ph.D. student, Patrick LeMieux designs art & videogames as theoretical tools to think with. On Saturday afternoon, we will be treated to a presentation of his work(s). They are unlike any games you’ve ever seen before!

“Networking the NES: Beyond the Dark Age of Digital Games”

In the dark age of digital games, located between the labs and arcades of the 60s and 70s and the networked communities of the late 90s, single-system software was designed for private play. Game designers mistook the one-player game as a technological constraint rather than a genre and players forgot that videogames were also toys. Phantom author functions were spoon-fed to consumers in the form of industry produced player’s guides, official hotlines, and advertising magazines which simultaneously taught consumers the “right” way to play while strategically masking the fact that videogames are agnostic to how they are played. After the home-console era, players began to produce experiences independent from the logic of the market and, as a result, games have changed (though the fantasy for an autonomous, ahistorical, and authored experience continues to drive the desire of both consumers and producers.) While Nintendo continues to ship the same ROM dumps to virtual consoles, Super Mario Bros. (1985) cannot be the same game that was first played almost thirty years ago. The intimate, serialized experience of private play has been radically transformed and reinvented through the physical network and the networked subjectivities of contemporary players. Once players began distributing ROM hacks online, building new multiplayer interfaces, competing in telematic races, and imagining the game in terms of a cultural history rather than software and hardware, Super Mario Bros. began to operate as a medium for making metagames, “ontological toys” (Bardee) with an infinite shelf life that thrives within a “playable network” (Novello). Based on the game, design, and philosophy practiced by speedrunners, sequence breakers, bug hunters, romhackers, modders, artists, and everyday players, I would like to share five project sketches within the framework of a network ecology.

Letters from distant lands: Carolingian intellectuals and their network(s)

Clare Woods, Classical Studies, Duke University

In the age of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other global social networking tools, networks, and ways in which we can (re)construct and analyze them, have become an important focus of research across the disciplines. This is no less true for those of us studying the premodern world, where networks (whether social, political, familial or intellectual) were both the fabric and the driving force of societies.

This post draws on material from my ongoing Carolingian Intellectual Networks project, the broad aim of which is to collect data on and map all the various connections between scholars, teachers and students in the late eighth through ninth centuries. The intellectuals I am studying were located across a large area of Europe comprising what is now France, the Low Countries, Switzerland, western parts of Germany and Austria, and northern Italy. This vast geographical area constituted the Carolingian Empire, a territory united by the military campaigns of Charlemagne in the later eighth century, and holding together, more or less, through the reigns of his successors until the late ninth century. This early medieval period–from about the 770s to the later ninth century–is usually referred to as the Carolingian Renaissance.

As the term “Renaissance” might suggest, the period was distinguished by its rich and sophisticated literary culture. Modern scholars have long been interested in Carolingian intellectuals and in the centres that housed them, usually monasteries or cathedrals, or the courts of aristocrats and kings. [1] To date, studies have tended to focus on individual scholars or individual schools, and typically on the very small number of individuals or centres for which we have the most data. Crucially, these studies are text-based. Maps and diagrams might be used to illustrate or clarify a point, but rarely work to enhance data and provoke further discovery. This post interrogates two recent (and representative) text-based studies of early medieval scholars and intellectual networks. Through visualizing data captured from these studies, I explore the challenges encountered in reconstructing early medieval intellectual networks and demonstrate the limitations of text-based network analyses. As we shall see, these are of necessity selective, offering in consequence only partial or fractured glimpses of the whole. If we are to reconstruct a total intellectual network in all its complexity, we need to start exploring the possibilities offered by new digital tools, preferably tools that allow for dynamic visualizations of our data. In addition, I hope that this post demonstrates the power of the visualization process itself, a process that enables–even requires–us to ask different and larger questions of our data.

What we know about Carolingian intellectuals we know because they wrote–to each other, for each other, occasionally about themselves. Quite possibly the richest source of information about Carolingian intellectuals–their interactions, connections, and networks–are the collections of letters that survive from the period. [2] The two studies I have chosen to interrogate in this post use letters as their primary source for establishing and discussing connections between Carolingian intellectuals.


Letters from the Classroom

The first study is an article by John J. Contreni entitled “The Carolingian School: Letters from the Classroom”. [3] While Contreni did not explicitly set out to reconstruct an intellectual network, his piece is useful for our purposes because of the wide selection of scholars featured in it. From the intellectual scene Contreni sketches, networks emerge.


Diagram 1

Diagram 1, constructed using Wordle, serves to introduce the more than forty individuals whose connections are discussed in Contreni’s paper. By counting the number of times each individual’s name occurs in Contreni’s text, I was able to produce a word cloud that provides a sense of the relative influence and importance of each intellectual, at least for Contreni. This representation of Contreni’s “network” gives an impression of the size of the scholarly crowd, but is most useful for identifying those individuals within it that loom largest in his study: Lupus, Ermenric, Alcuin, Hrabanus, and John Scottus.

Two of these names–John Scottus and Ermenric–achieve prominence by the accident of Contreni’s argument, as it were. Contreni’s article was first published in the proceedings of a conference devoted to the Carolingian philosopher John Scottus, which explains the relatively high number of references to this important scholar. These references to John Scottus are almost entirely confined to the opening and closing paragraphs of Contreni’s article, however. They belong merely to the frame and not the main picture. We know so little about the where and when of John Scottus that it is almost impossible to connect him with any other known Carolingian intellectual. Ermenric is another matter. A monk originally from the monastery of Ellwangen, he is perhaps most famous for one long and rather eccentric letter. [4] Contreni’s discussion of the letter over several pages of his article is the reason Ermenric’s name has made it into the top five. If we filter out John Scottus and Ermenric we are left with three names:

  1. Lupus (c. 805-862), a monk and later abbot of the monastery of Ferrières in north-central France;
  2. Alcuin (†804), an Anglo-Saxon cleric, and one of the most famous and important scholars and teachers of the Carolingian age. He became an adviser to Charlemagne, a teacher at his court, and later abbot of the monastery of Tours.
  3. Hrabanus (c.780-856), a monk at, and then abbot of the monastery of Fulda on the eastern edge of the Carolingian Empire. He was later elected to the archbishopric of Mainz.

These three men are, to medievalists, the “usual suspects” when we talk about scholarship and education in the Carolingian Renaissance. Their prominence in the Wordle diagram of Contreni’s article is not surprising.

Diagram 2

Diagram 2

Diagram 2, created using Gephi, an open-source visualization platform, better illustrates emergent networks in Contreni’s piece. It shows more clearly how Lupus, Alcuin and Hrabanus achieved their prominence in the word cloud. Diagram 2 is based purely on the letters used by Contreni to explore relationships between scholars. Each edge in the diagram represents a letter.

Visualizing Contreni’s data in this way is interesting because it suggests relative sizes of network: Lupus enjoys the largest, then Alcuin, then Hrabanus. It is also striking that these three scholars and their networks appear not to intersect with each other, or with anyone else featured in the diagram. A curious result because, as every historian of the early middle ages–and certainly Contreni–knows, Alcuin taught Hrabanus who in turn taught Lupus, yet these particular connections aren’t evidenced in the letters selected by Contreni for his article. Instead, when we visualize Contreni’s data, separate egocentric networks emerge around each letter writer. This, I would argue, is typical of the way historians tend to approach early medieval networks. The reality is far more complex.

I will return to the problem of selectivity in text-based network studies later. First, let us consider two important factors that tend to get taken for granted, downplayed, or even overlooked in network studies: the location of the individuals in question, and the dates when they were active.

keep reading

Network_Ecologies Symposium Teaser

Duke’s own Dr. Clare Woods and her collaborator research scientist – and visualization genius – Eric Monson will be presenting Woods’s project mapping intellectual networks in early medieval Europe in our Saturday morning session. It will be filled with images and maps and charts and graphs!

“Scholars, Teachers and Students in Early Medieval Europe: Towards a Total Network”

In the age of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other global social networking tools, networks and ways in which we can (re)construct and analyze them have become an important focus of research across the disciplines. This is no less true for those of us studying the premodern world, where networks (whether social, political, familial or intellectual) were both the fabric and the driving force of societies. This talk, part of a larger project, is concerned with intellectuals (scholars, teachers and their students) active in the late eighth through ninth centuries, a period usually referred to as the Carolingian Renaissance. By interrogating recent scholarship on early medieval intellectuals and their networks, I demonstrate the limits of text-based network studies, and argue that we cannot gain a fully nuanced and accurate understanding of early medieval intellectual networks unless we use new digital tools to visualize our data. The very process of visualization enables–even requires–us to ask different and larger questions of our sources. Visual models handle complex data more effectively than text-based narratives: layering different sorts of network — correspondence, travel itineraries, manuscript distribution data — leads to new discoveries, and new avenues for research.

Symbolic Xchanges: Poetry, Money, ARGs

October 8th, 2013 | Posted by amandastarling in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Network_Ecologies Symposium Teaser

The brilliant Stephanie Boluk will be delivering a talk titled “Symbolic Xchanges: Poetry, Money, ARGs” during our Saturday afternoon Symposium session. It will be a must-attend event!


“Money and language have something in common,” Franco Berardi writes in The Uprising, “they are nothing and they move everything.” For Berardi, the virtualization of reality and rise of finance capital function as the dystopian mirror of language and poetry. My talk will examine this dialectic between money and language as well as the relationship of electronic literature to emerging cultures of financialization through an analysis of Speculation (https://, an alternate reality game (ARG) directed by Katherine Hayles, Patrick Jagoda, and Patrick LeMieux. Set in a near-future after the collapse of the Eurozone and creation of a global oligarchy, Speculation’s diffuse, transmedia form engages the conditions of capitalism by attempting to mimick the inscrutable and inaccessible processes of algorithmic stock trading, complex derivatives, and futures investment. The production of fiction and the production of what Marx called “fictitious capital” co-evolve in this alternate reality game. Speculation’s authors have coined the term “derivative fiction” to describe this process of symbolic exchange—pairing concepts like Debord’s dérive with the digital logic of financial derivatives. As much as this game is about finance capital, it also is finance capital in the way it mixes media, apes algorithmic process, and circulates electronically.


Living Network Ecologies Part 3: You can gaze at 10,000-100,000 hands writing: Fernand Deligny in the age of social networks

Drew S. Burk

Fernand Deligny, à propos d’un film à faire via

Fernand Deligny, à propos d’un film à faire via

“It still remains that there is writing and there is the what. The what, the contents of the book, what it will say, about what is written is obviously essential; what remains is to write which is Arachnean. You can gaze at 10,000–100,000 hands writing: they do the same thing. There are nonetheless several differences between the spider and this by which a hand, fingers, become legs and the palm becomes the written body; the thread of words does not shoot out from thread-shoots located at the beginning of the wrist; we had to learn to write.”

Deligny, The Arachnean and Other Texts forthcoming from Univocal Publishing

If Deligny’s writings found within The Arachnean and Other Texts continually oscillate between what he calls “the-man-that-we-are,” the human imbued with language and self-awareness (albeit false), and the so-called Arachnean, the (non)human being whose innate weaving and “acting” is pre-linguistic or at the least, does not take language as its “dwelling,” then unlike many of his contemporaries who embraced language as the dwelling of being and the narrative nature of existence, Deligny sees within our world dominated by language and perhaps now media of all sorts, a world where we are constantly confronted with an overarching yearning for sense making. Has the human that we are become arrogant in this undertaking of what Deligny names Se Voir, self seeing, (the being conscious of being) and not Ce Voir, a this seeing, which hesitates, and is uncertain about “self awareness” and claims of authoritative naming with which sense is made and where Deligny claims, we discover a violence of wanting?

However, by comparing 10,000–100,000 human hands writing to the becoming animal of the spider, Deligny is suggesting it is perhaps necessary to revaluate man’s relation to sense making, where writing should perhaps be viewed of a different poetic nature, where the human becomes a humane inhuman. Writing here is possibly an expression of the innate, and is thus not about “making” sense but is merely the innate ritual of “acting”, the mode of the Arachnean. It is what Deligny would call “a-conscious”, outside the conscious or subconscious. As the Brazilian philosopher and Deligny scholar, Peter Pàl Pelbart states,

“Deligny refers to the turtle traced by the aborigine in a tree’s bark, then abandoned–the essential there is the tracing, the movements of the hand that come and go, not being this “his” hand, just as the web is not this one spider’s…and our emotion comes from the fact that this drawing is common; a sense common to us, human, since the human has for common the hand in motion. Common, communism. When conscience is eclipsed it is worth looking, as if at a lunar eclipse, and what is seen, even if it is not visible, are the traces of the Arachnean.

To put it excessively abruptly, Deligny’s problem is not one of the assemblage of desire, but of the innate, of the pre-linguistic, of the a-conscious, of what he calls humane, and that Deleuze and Guattari would call inhumane. Conversely, one could say that the reticence in relation to language, to the significant, to interpretation, to structure, persist entirely, despite the different conceptions they have on the status of language.” [1]

Within the digital networks of millions of “hand(s), fingers, becomes legs, and the palms become the written body,” is perhaps where the utterances where digital social networks need to be evaluated as having more to do with an innate acting than a sense making, i.e. more to do with a poetics of being than any kind of self-aware truth claims of expression, where intention would be seen. Where wanting (to make sense) would emerge.

Instead of wanting, there can perhaps be found in the mode of the network, a position outside of language proper and outside of self (interest) that would strive to create a space for common shared existence where those involved had a profound detachment from the others, except for providing some sort of meal or necessary utility, coming every now and then to place on the stone table at the site of living in the Cevennes some sort of goods, those within the network were not concerned with any thought-out relation or project. It is within “acting” in an innate, unattached manner, keeping a distance from one another, that the network was spun

“[…] anyone who came from one of the distant collectives and passed by the silk farm would place, lettuce, blackberries or cheeses on the stone which were from another collective, and then would take back with them whatever had been placed by someone else on their own collective’s stone. For the most part, all of this took place without anyone else being present besides the passerby from the collective.”

A profound detachment to naming and to others at once proximate and distant. Wanting was left aside for innate gestures of exchange. But as the Arachnean web was spun, as the network continued to weave itself as mode of being, Deligny’s poetic recounting indicated that something nevertheless emerged, a ritual customary living that if  told in the form of a narrative, in a precise manner, would not be so different than the relation the Aborginals had to their ritual practice of art creation. While they are mentioned briefly in Deligny’s text, the figure of the Aboriginal nevertheless plays an important role for Deligny concerning the Aboriginal’s reliance on art practice as “acting” and not as a thought-out project of “making”, engaged simply in a ritual creation of their artwork and turtle paintings: it was not about the finished painting but the customary process and ritual of the practice itself. For Deligny, the network as a mode of being was a similar innate practice of living. It was within the detached ritual of exchange of the network as mode of being that it gained its strength.

“And then the stones were replaced by the beam which had been the master-beam for a demolished house. The customary coming from the stones persisted upon the furrowed gray wood of this crudely squared beam, until the day came that when the customary ceased; the passersby would sit and talk and exchange information, something which a socio-ethno-psychologist would have concluded the network accessed at superior level.

However, several years later, I learned that when the beam was in use within the customary of the network, the legend had taken the form of language, the collectives preached that the network lived off the mode of exchange, an archaic mode and obsolete tradition considered to be in good taste by everyone of the network, all of whom had an engrained distrust of money; so it was that a rough solidarity was practiced to speak like those who speak of the painted turtle on bark somewhere in far off Arnhem Land.” [2]


[1] From Peter Pàl Pelbart’s afterward to the forthcoming, The Arachnean and Other Texts, by Fernand Deligny, trans. Drew S. Burk, Univocal: Minneapolis, 2013)

[2]  The Arachnean and Other Texts, by Fernand Deligny, trans. Drew S. Burk, forthcoming, Univocal: Minneapolis. 2013)