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Mind Map 20 April: Social Networks & Math

This week’s MindMap: Social Networks. In anticipation of reconceptualizing my semester’s mindmap work, I opted this week to create a more synthesized set of nodes entitled “Rhizome Kinship Patterns.” I also opted not to connect this set to any others … Continue reading

The Mindmap and the Anti-Theory Tree Movement (Go Rhizomes!)


Mindmap updated for April 20.

Mindmap updated for April 20.

This week’s mindmap update was a bit bigger than previous weeks (though not all previous weeks). I added nodes for Rainie and Wellman, Delueze and Guattari, and Scott (lonely man in this list, no?), and connected them as an extension of Castells’ Network Society Theory. I can definitely agree with Delueze and Guattari that the theory tree is dead; my mindmap is just a cluster upon cluster upon cluster, jutting out in all different directions.

For Delueze and Guattari, I included two quotes and a video I had found, focusing on the concept of Rhizome as a substitute for a theory tree as the organization is less clear.  Their argument reminds me a lot of Foucault (all roads lead to him for a reason) because the creation of new theories is not some neat passageway; rather, it seems like the creation of new theories takes a little bit from this theory here, tosses away something else, threads in a different theory, and loops back, reaching for a theory that seemed long since buried. I connected their theory to the Ecology Theory section as they draw upon ecological terms as a metaphor for the ways in which they see theory (hence the rhizomes).

When creating notes for Rainie and Wellman, I made sure to include a quote about the four elements of the networked individualism (personal,  multiuser, multitasking, and multithreaded) as it was interesting how these aspects are reshaping our own social interactions, which ties into the the second node I added for these authors. As I was reading their excerpt, what struck me was the idea that the information exchange going on between networked individuals is a microscopic exchange reflecting a much larger exchange going on between cities, metropolitan regions (*tips hat to Castells*), states, and nations. It was in this visualization of micro and macro levels of information exchange where I created a link between Rainie and Wellman and Castells.

For Scott, I didn’t add too much, but the node I did add was a picture of his sociogram. While I was a little fuzzy about this concept when I first read the excerpt (mathy looking stuff has never been my strong suit), after doing an activity where we compiled data to make our sociograms, the concept made a lot more sense. So, his figure became a node.

A Little Oncer Shipping for the Almost Finished Road Ahead

Reading Notes: Week 14


In their introduction to A thousand plateaus: Capitalism and schizophrenia, Deleuze and Guattari examines the use of trees and roots as metaphors for the structure of existence. While focusing primarily on texts and writing for their analysis, their argument is that the rhizome is a better metaphor for networks. Because of its ability to assume “diverse forms” (p. 7), the rhizome better describes the relationships between nodes than does the tree–which forces a structure that contains both a beginning and an end. Additionally, Deleuze and Guattari offer  characteristics of rhizomes to support their argument:

  1. Connection and heterogeneity: “any point of the rhizome can be connected to anything other, and must be” (p. 7). The unending connections between “semiotic chains, organizations of power, and circumstances relevant to the arts, sciences, and social struggles” allow for better representation of the limitless connections from which objects emerge.
  2. Mulitplicity: “it is only when the multiple is treated as substantive . . . that it ceases to have any relation to the One as subject or object, natural or spiritual reality, image and world” (p. 8). Unlike the tree metaphor, which relies on one structure that is reproduced, the rhizome has no unity that can be divided. There are no points or positions–only lines.
  3. Asignifying rupture: “A rhizome may be broken, shattered at a given spot, but it will start up again on one of its old lines, or on new lines” (p. 9). Stratifications, lines of flight, and regenerations form a horizontal, non-linear structure of organization.
  4. Cartography and decalcomania: “a rhizome is not amenable to any structural or generative model”–“a map and not a tracing” (p. 12). Unlike a tree, which is a structure by which we try to mold the tracing of other structures, a rhizome’s structure provides a map of connections. “The map is open and connectable to

These characteristics, they argue, represent the book. A book is not an image but an overlapping of ideas and contributions from other people, ideas, books, and values.

Plateaus, Networks, and the Mad Hatter Twins Take the Grand Stage

And, we’re back. But what to say about this week’s reading?

I guess, I should start by admitting that I probably should NOT have started with the excerpt from Guattari and Deleuze’s book,  A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. I loved Guattari’s Three Ecologies, but when I read the opening to their chapter “Introduction: Rhizome,” I was quite taken aback: “The two of us wrote Anti-Oedipus together. Since each of us was seven, there was already quite a crowd.” Maybe I’m just not up-to-speed with their understanding of math, but my first and second reactions were certainly:

Waving goodbye as we tumble down the rabbit hole. Image hosted on the blog, Pitter Patter.

Waving goodbye as we tumble down the rabbit hole. Image hosted on the blog, Pitter Patter.

We're All Mad Here. Image hosted on

We’re All Mad Here. Image hosted on Stack Exchange.

Alas, I digress before I have even begun. After my initial, “Woah” moment, I settled into reading. I particularly like Deleuze and Guattari’s conversations about books as taproots, “with its pivotal spine and surrounding roots,” going on in all different directions rather than just a dichotomy, but then move on to show that this is just as limiting as the dichotomous view that had been in place before. They offer a different image instead: “The radicle-system, or fascicular root, is the second figure of the book, to which our modernity pays willing allegiance. This time, the principal root has aborted, or its tip has been destroyed; an immediate, indefinite multiplicity of secondary roots grafts onto it and undergoes a flourish development. This time, natural reality is what aborts the principal root, but the root’s unity subsists, as past or yet to come, as possible” (5). And then comes their image of the rhizome, but an image that is not only limited to plants but certain animals as well (rats are their example) and, later, their comparison of rhizomes to books: “The rhizome is an anti-genealogy. The same applies to the book and the world: contrary to a deeply rooted belief, the book is not an image of the world. It forms a rhizome with the world, there is an aparallel evolution of the book and the world; the book assures the deterritorialization of the world, but the world effects a reterritorialization of the book, which in turn deterritorializes itself in the world (if it is capable, if it can). Mimicry is a very bad concept, since it relies on binary logic to describe phenomena of an entirely different nature” (11).

**Warning: The beginning of this video is a little weird as it has dramatic music playing through a textual/visual introduction. Once it ends, though, the video opens to an interview.

Side note: when Googling Deleuze and Guattari’s “radicle-system,” one of my image results was Christian Bale covered in blood from  his role in American Psycho. I did also find a blog entry on their Anti-Oedipus. One of the most interesting blog entries I have found employed Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of “collective assemblage of enunciation” into object-oriented rhetoric.

Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. Image hosted on  website for Mike Hoolboom.

,  Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. Image hosted on website for Mike Hoolboom.

A Break for Some Vocabulary

Rhizome – “a rootlike subterranean stem, commonly horizontal in position, that usually produces roots below and sends up shoots progressively from the upper surface” ( But, the organic definition is not the only one. For Deleuze and Guattari, “A rhizome ceaselessly establishes connections between semiotic chains, organizations of power, and circumstances relative to the arts, sciences, and social struggles” (7).

Urban Photo Rhizome. Image hosted on blog, Bhopal 2011: Requiem & Revitalisation.

Urban Photo Rhizome. Image hosted on blog, Bhopal 2011: Requiem & Revitalisation.

Collective Assemblage of Enunciation – “focus on the manner in which impersonal statements are tied to collectives, and are not attributable to subjects…the subject is no longer divided in Cartesian sense between an enunciation (‘I think’) and a statement (‘I am’) that could constitute its being”  (The Deleuze and Guattari Dictionary by Eugene B. Young 70). These remind me of neurons in the brain that I had to read about with Neurobiology a few weeks ago.

Machinic Assemblages - “One side of a machinic assemblage faces the strata, which doubtless make it a kind of organism, or signing totality, or determination attributable to a subject; it also has a side facing a body without organs, which is continually dismantling the organism, causing asignifying particles or pure intensities to pass or circulate, and attributing to itself subjects that it leaves with nothing more than a name as the trace of an intensity” (Deleuze and Guattari 4)

Abstract Machine – “connects a language to the semantic and pragmatic contents of statements, to collective assemblages of enunciation, to a whole micropolitics of the social field” (Deleuze and Guattari 7)

Principle of Connection and Heterogeneity – “Any point of a rhizome can be connected to anything other, and must be. This is very different from the tree or root, which plots a point, fixes an order” (Deleuze and Guattari 7)

Principle of Multiplicity – “it is only when the multiple is effectively treated as a substantive, ‘multiplicity,’ that it ceases to have any relation to the One as subject or object, natural or spiritual reality, image and world. Multiplicities are rhizomatic , and expose aborescent psuedomultiplicities for what they are… A multiplicity has neither subject nor object, only determinations, magnitudes, and dimensions that cannot increase in number without the multiplicity changing in nature (the laws of combination therefore increase in number as the multiplicity grows” (Deleuze and Guattari 8)

Principle of Asignifying Rupture – “Against the oversignifying breaks separating structures or cutting across a single structure. A rhizome may be broken, shattered at a given spot, but it will start up again on one of its old lines, or on new lines…Every rhizome contains lines of sementarity according to which it is stratified, territorialized, organized, signified, attributed, etc., as well as lines of deterritorialization down which it constantly flees” (Deleuze and Guattari 9)

Principle of Cartography and Decalcomania – “a rhizome is not amenable to any structural or generative model. It is a stranger to any idea of genetic axis or deep structure. A genetic axis is like an objective pivotal unity upon which successive stages are organized; a deep structure is more like a base sequence that can be broken down into immediate constituents, while the unity of the product passes into another, transformational and subjective, dimension” (Delueze and Guattari 12)

After moving through their introduction, picking up vocabulary concepts along the way, I did find an image that helped me to visualize kind of where they were going with decoupling the tree root metaphor and moving towards rhizome. It was an adjustment to think of theories not as trees, branching outwards from the ground up, but as rhizomes branching out from wherever they can. This makes more sense, especially after doing the Theory Tree group work with some of my peers. We had encountered a problem, initially, with deciding how to shape the pathways of the authors, as they were drawing upon one another, crossing topics and subjects, looping back and adding outwards. Theory does not move in a linear fashion along a timeline, but links to other theories, even some that may be startling with their connections. In this way, Delueze and Guattari remind me of Foucault, in that they are tearing away at the image of the tree that had been so heavily embedded in how theorists saw their work moving into the network of theories playing out, but also looking at how those theorists (like Ninetieth) were undercutting what was seen as established: “Joyce’s words, accurately described as having ‘multiple roots,’ shatter the linear unity of the word, even of language, only to posit a cyclic unity of the sentence, text, or knowledge. Nietzsche’s aphorisms shatter the linear unity of knowledge, only to invoke the cyclic unity of the eternal return, present as the nonknown in thought” (Deleuze and Guattari 6). The shattering of unity of language and knowledge, sounds a lot like what Foucault was proposing with history and the history of ideas. There is no one unifying tree trunk because there is no linearity beyond that which we impose, but even that comes with selective inclusion and exclusion.

But, as soon as I start to follow Delueze and Guattari’s threads of thought, they produce sentences like, “Drunkenness as a triumphant irruption of the plant in us” (11). Seriously people, I think they are just messing with readers at that point. Or, maybe, in the haze of their LSD experiments, a statement like that (as well as the one where two people are seven) actually means something deep and awe-inspiring? Either way, such commentary leaves me brain-addled in the desert of rhizomatic confusion. Though, I must say, their declaration for readers to “Follow the plants” makes sense (I feel totally batty for having just written that) because plants find interesting ways of adapting to their surroundings and the climate and they branch off in anyway that will give them access to greater amounts of sunlight.

Someone's conceptualization of Delueze and Guattari's ideas. Image hosted on the website Lab404.

Someone’s conceptualization of Delueze and Guattari’s ideas. Image hosted on the website Lab404.

Rainie and Wellman Come Falling Down

Lee Rainie, Director of  Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project. Image hosted on the University of Maryland's website for the Human-Computer Interaction Lab.

Lee Rainie, Director of Pew Research Center‘s Internet & American Life Project. Image hosted on the University of Maryland’s website for the Human-Computer Interaction Lab.

Barry Wellman, professor at the University of Toronto. Image hosted on the website for the Workshop on Information in Networks.

Barry Wellman, professor at the University of Toronto. Image hosted on the website for the Workshop on Information in Networks.

Changing the metaphorical (and theoretical) gears, we turn to Lee Rainie and Barry Wellman’s book Networked: The New Social Operating System. This book was very different than our rhizome-obsessed dynamic duo, though the introduction tripped me up considerably as it was about a woman tripping and then having brain surgery. Rainie and Wellman’s focus turns towards individuals networking through technology: “When people walk down the street texting on their phones, they are obviously communicating. Yet things are different now. In incorporating gadgets into their lives, people have changed the ways they interact with each other. They have become networked as individuals, rather than embedded in groups. In the world of networked individuals, it is the person who is the focus: not the family, not the work unit, not the neighborhood, and not the social group” (6). It was interesting to read their ideas about how our interactions with communication technologies are reshaping the “social operating system” that they call “networked individualism” (6).

Distracted walking. Image hosted on Australian news site, SFGate, in the article "Tourist Walks Off Australia Pier While Checking Facebook."

Distracted walking. Image hosted on Australian news site, SFGate, in the article “Tourist Walks Off Australia Pier While Checking Facebook.”

It was a curious thing to think of people as part of an operating system, casting us in roles similar to the computers we make, buy, operate, upgrade, and love and hate. However, such an idea makes sense. Unless we are completely isolated, we function as nodes within groups at home, at work, at school, in places where we shop, eat, drink, relax. After looking at the picture above, those who are part of societies fluent in these communication technologies visually look like they are moving nodes in a network, always connected, exchanging information. We move through crowds of people on their phones, checking Facebook, Twitter, their emails, websites, Google Maps, and so on through the interwebs.

To push forth their idea of networked individualism, Rainie and Wellman list four aspects of the social network operating system: “personal–the individual is at the autonomous center just as she reaching out from her computer; multiuser–people are interacting with numerous diverse others; multitasking–people are doing several things; and multithreaded–they are doing them more or less simultaneously” (7). We’re all looking a little cyborg now. This reminds me of the articles I read on Cloud Computing at the beginning of the semester as we are part of the external framework of the global network, along with the computer hardware constantly at our fingertips. But Rainie and Wellman make a good point, one that resonates with Castells, that this social network operating system is founded on social networks that were already in place; it is not a new system (social groups already existed), but a newer system (one where proximity is not as important a detail anymore) that is enhanced by advancements in technology, giving us a broader reach and an ability to juggle more with (usually) efficiency. The authors are pushing back against people who warn against technology making us more isolated, finding that what people do with the technology is a constant reaching out rather than a drawing inward. However, they also found that people still want the physical connection and find that networking through communication technology is taxing in that they must constantly work at staying connected (sound like Latour with his observation that individuals in a group must constantly define and redefine the boundaries of their group. It takes work to be and stay connected.)

The more I think about it, the more I can see it both ways. Through my phone and computer, I can be in constant contact with someone, anyone, and yet, by being on my phone while I am physically near someone, I am (in a sense) constructing a mental wall against that person. This reminds me of family dinners where I would be sitting next to my mother, stepfather, and younger sister, only to have no one speaking. My mother and stepfather would be playing word games with each other, but messaging through the text feature, and my little sister would be texting her friends or following her favorite celebrity (Justin Bieber, at that time). The same thing happens all the time in restaurants, on buses or light rails, or even just walking down the street. The people around us can become physical shadows we don’t pay much attention to because there are people with whom we can connect virtually who more clearly share our interests, are friends from back home, or are family members who can now be reached without using the seemingly obsolete snail mail.


How to escape a social function like a ninja? Phone call. Image hosted on a website for House of Cards.

How to escape a social function like a ninja? Phone call. Image hosted on a blog for House of Cards.

Rainie and Wellman discuss three revolutions that have taken place as communication technologies shape how we interact with others: 1) “The Social Network Revolution has provided opportunities–and stresses– for people to reach beyond the world of tight groups” (it’s no longer enough to be an isolated tribe. Need to link outwards); 2) “the Internet Revolution has given people communication powers and information-gathering capacities that dwarf those of the past” (which can sometimes result in this); 3) “the Mobile Revolution has allowed ICTs [information and communication technology] to become bodily appendages allowing people to access friends and information at will, wherever they go” (11-12).

Analytical Scott Joins in the Chorus

[add more here]

John Scott's figures of compiling a Sociogram, on page 45.

John Scott’s figures of compiling a Sociogram, on page 45.

And so ends our story of Rhizomes, Networked Individuals, and Sociograms. Just for a while, loves. These things always crop back up.

Enough internet for Dean Winchester, from Supernatural.

Enough internet for Dean Winchester, from Supernatural.


Deleuze, Gilles and Felix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Trans. Brian Massumi. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987. [PDF].

Raine, Lee and Barry Wellman. Networked: The New Social Operating System. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2012. [PDF].

Scott, John. Social Network Analysis: A Handbook. 2nd Ed. Los Angeles: Sage, 2010. [PDF].

Long Live the Multiple

Reading Notes: Deleuze & Guattari, Scott, and Rainie & Wellman

Deleuze & Guattari

Reading A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia by Deleuze and Guattari (1980/1987) is an experience in disorientation and reorientation. The first pages are entirely disorienting. What is that scribbled piano piece for David Tudor? What is a book without subject or object? How are lines and measurable speed related to the assemblage, and is an assemblage the same as a multiplicity? (pp. 3-4). Truth be told, I don’t think I can effectively answer those questions even after reading the chapter! But intrepid readers will eventually right themselves from their disorientated states, as I did, and discover that Deleuze and Guattari are seeking to break readers from their habitual arboreal metaphorical existence. And this does not mean emerging from the trees. It means engaging in flattened, networked, metaphorically rhizomatic thinking rather than hierarchical, binary, linear, metaphorical tree/branch thinking (p. 17). It means embracing the pragmatic schizophrenia of lived experience in all its networked, nonlinear glory rather than idealized linearity that doesn’t really exist in the lived world.

Tufte essay cover

The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint” – Tufte’s critique of arborescent thinking from

I connected this chapter to ideas in Edward R. Tufte’s (2006) essay “The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint: Pitching Out Corrupts Within.” Tufte’s (n.d.) critique of PowerPoint as a technology that “usually weakens verbal and spatial reasoning, and almost always corrupt statistical analysis” reflects the point Deleuze and Guattari (1981/1987) make in this chapter: that linear thinking in root/tree/branch structures (like PowerPoint’s points and outlines) simply traces and reproduces rather than analyzing and imagining (p.12). Rhizomatic thinking, on the other hand, maps with creativity and imagination in connections that can’t be predicted or controlled (p. 12). In the same way that PowerPoint stifles analysis and reasons, arborescent thinking stifles imagination, creativity, and connection. Deleuze and Guattari point to the perpetual “interbeing” of the rhizome as the alternative, or at least the preferred complement, to the arborescent metaphor for thought (p. 25).

Rainie & Wellman

What Deleuze and Guattari theorize, Rainie and Wellman explain. Accepting the rhizomatic character of 21st century networked individuals as the norm, Rainie and Wellman (2012) seek to describe the environmental and social affordances that enable networked individuality. They settle on describing networked individualism as an “operating system” to reflect that “societies — like computer systems — have networked structures that provides opportunities and constraints, rules and procedures” (p. 7). They continue to define the social network operating systems as personal, multiuser, multitasking, and multithreading (p. 7). These characteristics of the network operating system reflect the rhizomatic character of networked thinking and theorizing that Deleuze and Guattari theorize. These characteristics also point to the influence of Latour’s (2005) emphasis on the individual node as the center of the activity network, to Castells’ (2010) claim that society is a “space of flows” (to which Rainie and Wellman make direct reference, p. 102), and to Scott’s reference to the emerging schism in social network theory between those, like Homans, seeking to build a social theory around small-scale social interaction and others, like Parsons, who sought to build social theory around larger social networks (p. 23).

Rainie and Wellman (2012) identify the “Triple Revolution” of Social Network, Internet, and Mobile Revolutions “coming together to shift people’s social lives away from densely knit family, neighborhood, and group relationships toward more far-flung, less tight, more diverse personal networks” (p. 11). I took these three revolutions to represent environmental affordances enabling the development of networked individualism. In Chapter 4, which I was assigned, Rainie and Wellman address the contributions to networked individualism afforded by the explosive availability and implementation of mobile and wireless technologies: “Mobile phones have become key affordances for networked individuals as they have become easier to carry, cheaper to use, and able to function in more places” (p. 84). The ability to function in more places has become increasingly important in developing nations, where hardwired infrastructure is impractical and often skipped over on favor of cheaper wireless technology. As a result, “by 2011, more than three-quarters of the world’s mobile phones were in less-developed countries, with China alone having some 879 million subscribers” (p. 89). This represents the reduction of the digital divide among mobile phone users, a significant milestone toward which “teens are showing the way” (p. 87). The result of mobile affordances is that place becomes both less and more important. While it’s true that “the closer that people live and work together, the more contact they have” (p. 101), it’s also true that space and time are becoming “softer” and “distance is not dead, it is just being renegotiated…. Your place is where your connectivity is” (p. 108).

Rhizome visualization

“The rhizome is altogether different, a map and not a tracing” (Deleuze & Guattari, 1980/1987, p. 12). Image from Hypertext ICAM130 SP06

Place as connectivity” echoes Castells’ “space of flows” and Latour’s flattened localized nodes. It also reflects the rhizomatic society that Deleuze and Guattari theorize, in which Rainie and Wellman’s (2012) “continuous partial attention” (p. 108) and “present absence” (p. 103), Campbell and Park’s “connected presence,” and Gergen’s “absent presence” (qtd. in Wellman & Rainie, 2012) can all feel perfectly comfortable, a space of connection and heterogeneity: “any point of a a rhizome can be connected to anything other, and must be” (Deleuze & Guattari, p. 7).

Oxymoronic phrases? Only in arborescent metaphorical thought.


Deleuze, G., & Guattari, F. (1987). A thousand plateaus: Capitalism and schizophrenia. (B. Massumi, Trans.) Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press. (Original work published 1980)

Latour, B. (2005). Reassembling the social: An introduction to actor-network-theory. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. Clarendon Lectures in Management Studies

Rainie, L., & Wellman, B. (2012). Networked: The new social operating system. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Scott, J. (2000). Social network analysis: A handbook (2nd ed.). Los Angeles, CA: Sage.

Tufte, E. R. (n.d.). Essay: The cognitive style of PowerPoint: Pitching out corrupts within [Webpage summary]. Retrieved from

Tufte, E. R. (2006). The cognitive style of PowerPoint: Pitching out corrupts within (2nd ed.). Cheshire, CT: Graphics Press.

[ Featured ImageAlaska forest - trees. More rhizomatic than Deleuze and Guattari make them out to be? CC licensed image from Flickr user Barbara. ]

Mobile Technology On the Move: Rainie, Scott, and Deleuze

Rhizomes and Social Networks – This week’s readings bring us around to the rhizome analogy, one which Deleuze and Guattari wax philosophic over (when they apparently are indulging in some pharmaceutical hallucinations, I gather). Their rhizomatic illustrations seem to serve … Continue reading