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The Network as a Category in Cultural Studies and as a Model for Conceptualizing America

Ulfried Reichardt


Pages 17 - 35



The article presents a short survey of the definitions, areas of use, and terminological properties of ‘the network.’ Networks are understood as empirical entities as well as conceptual models, and the network is conceived of as a descriptive as well as an analytical category. Its main properties are recursive interconnectivity, nodality, as well as distributed agency. The links are at least as important as the individual nodes, and networks are always dynamic and emergent entities. The essay discusses representations of networks as well as the network itself as a form of representation. It looks at the Internet as the master network of our times, at knowledge networks, as well as at globalization—which can be conceptualized within the model—and then discusses the ways in which ‘America’ can be better understood by thinking about it in terms of network structures. This concerns early uses of the metaphor in literature, the shift to relational and processual thinking in Pragmatism, as well as political structures. Finally, network structures are explored in narration, painting, as well as music. The article introduces the conceptual tools and framework for the more specifically focused essays that follow in this issue.

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