‘Flows without elements of structure would be noise and nodes without flows would be dead’-Felix Stalder

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Our Networked Society is a Global Nervous System
Our Networked Society is part of a Global Nervous System

In the chapter titled Information Ecology from Felix Stadler’s work Open Cultures and the Nature of Networks  he states:

The interdependence of the nodes means that information
can travel through the whole environment and, according to the way it is reshaped in each
node, it grows or decreases in relevance and speed.

Stadler is likening data flows and the nodes with which they interact to events which occur in nature such as armies of ants or swarms of bees as they work together to carry out a task. If one unit is down, the others will carry on, intent on their purpose. The text is quite poetically written and describes so eloquently, the interaction between objects or elements that occurs when information is transferred  from one point to another.

A friend was complaining to me recently that her mother, who resides in Italy, was able to follow her life here in Australia by checking the Facebook pages of her friends after which she would ring and chastise her. This friend is 38 and finds it particularly irksome that her mother has this ability, especially when her mother was one of the reasons for her departure from Italy in the first place. Stadler comments directly on this type of occurrence when he states:

The interconnections between the nodes constitute the patterns in the flow of
information. They provide the stabilization within the potentially fluid environment enabling
navigation and purposeful, systematic action.

The interconnections that I can discern in my friend’s situation are-

  1. Mother sees disturbing flows of information on Facebook pages.
  2. Mother uses telecommunication to impart her dissatisfaction with my friend’s behaviour.
  3. My friend is upset for the posting of sensitive information about her.
  4. My friend acts upon this information and warns her friends against repeat episodes.

This is an information flow where the nodes involved have solicited change as a result of interaction with the data. Stadler states:

The flow of information does not simply connect two sides; by being connected they change.
A bridge does not simply couple two independent villages across a river but it creates a
new city (or a new war).

In this particular instance, I would have to agree that Felix Stadler is a visionary!


Stalder, F. (2005) ‘Information Ecology’. In Open Cultures and the Nature of Networks pp. 62-66.viewed 20 August 2014,


4 thoughts on “‘Flows without elements of structure would be noise and nodes without flows would be dead’-Felix Stalder

  1. Loving the metaphors you use in your posts, previously – The flattened world of the digital age (that was from an older post, btw comments are closed for some reason there, might wanna check that) and the digital networks of today being compared to those of the animal world.

    I sometimes find it discomforting that your whole life can be up for everyone to see, especially with our gps enabled phones (who knows what data they’re collecting) and facebook. But I find it annoying when I catch myself participating (and wasting time) so intently in this media flow.

    1. Thank you for your comments. Being a little older I must admit I had difficulty getting comfortable with the whole exposure thing however I quickly realised that I had to get over this if I wanted to get my content out there. I guess social media is wonderful for all the the things that it brings such as connectivity with an online community. The bad things – well I guess you can’t have your cake and eat it too.

  2. interesting post, loved the part about linking it to natural phenomenon, like ants and bees, never thought about it in that way, however shouldn’t your friend realise that we are so inter-connected that there is no real escape form the rest of the world or her mother.

    1. I hear you, however I think its an Italian thing! The ants and bees are a metaphor for the inter-connectivity of society and the way in which we structure our lives. I believe that the framework for all systems, including those of an organic nature, is biased on a deep molecular level.

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