definition work

networks of _______________

relation (relate/relationship)

connection (connect/connectivity)

association (associate)


I have a feeling these do not describe the same type of link(ages) in their tracing (trace/traceability). I sure am glad Reassembling the Social came in the mail yesterday.

OOO where ANT thou, grasp of concepts? 

how do ANT and OOO(P/R) relate?

how to describe networks without them seeming rigid/fixed – a one time/one way connection?

how do networks age/de-compose? remain active?


6 thoughts on “definition work

  1. First off, I want to say that I find it alarming that this picture is a “fail.” But it was interesting that I had come upon this, and instantly thought of your post. I guess I’m wondering… what’s going on between this car and his man? He refers to it as a relationship, but how might this also be connecting or associating? Is this kind of what we’re asking when we try to re-imagine how we’re networking with people and objects? I’m thinking of the car as its own object (containing objects, these interrelated, distinct and irreducible parts… an assemblage? Sum of its parts, or is it greater than its sum?) that–like most cars I know (not to generalize against cars… I’m sure expensive new ones are great)–break/degrade/age/decompose in increments (CD3WHYWON’TYOUWORKWHENINEEDYOUTO), increments that affect our relationship (or association? our connection?) with it over time. I’m compelled to keep using relationship, though, perhaps because he “said” it. And he also kisses the car (misuse? how does society want us to read this?). But relationship connotes a kind of intimacy that could suggest that within networks there are different types of bonds that occur, some more intimate than others but not necessarily more valuable or important (flatness). For example, I feel like proximity is still spacial and could still result in “networking” and changes in _______s (don’t know which term to use either) with objects, but feels more like osmoses than interaction. Maybe this would be the man in the car, or the man standing by the car but not speaking to it or kissing it? Accidence, intention: what room is there for terms like these in networks?

    Of course I have no idea what I’m talking about. Martin told me SUNY Buffalo offers(ed) a class called (I believe) Misreadings and Textual Gaps. I want a class on the Having-not-read-yet: the (unlikely) value of ill-informed ideas.

    With that said, it’s late and I think I’m missing the point. BUT I’m definitely fascinated in how these terms differ in our networking with people and objects. BRAINSTORM. I also really liked the picture.

    • (a month later!) I don’t think you’re missing the point. I would like to think about (if the idea would be so kind) the differences (if there are any?) in relation/association/connection as far as depth or strength or intimacy (not sure of the word for this). Hmm…

  2. I’m tempted to change them to verbs (instead of nominalizations), Jana. Networks or not, you’d have relate, connect, and associate.

    Connect is for me the most structurally clear of the three. Connect is like a hyperlink. Its following (or tracing) is a surer thing–maybe more reliable and durable. Thinking connect-the-dots, too. Connections are more demonstrable, I’d say, than relations or associations.

    Relate seems to me a looser coupling and one that requires more information because it is nuanced. It implies another question, right? “Relates on the basis of ______.” Two things can relate, but their relating might be non-obvious (whereas connections would be more visible, more surface-able).

    And associate is the loosest coupling of the three. Like “relate,” it needs more information–the association is vague until it is qualified. Associations, like relations, strengthen when they are articulated (when they are spoken or pointed out), but they remain elusive and are, as I tend to think of it, more ephemeral than relations. Relations (think family relations) have a structural basis for continuing even when they are not maintained, but associations strengthen and fade or even vanish altogether. All of these are susceptible to rot and decomposition, but I would guess that associations rot more readily than, say, connections. Sure, connections rot, but associations decompose more rapidly (like leaves in the fall) whereas connections rot more slowly, like tree branches. Maybe?

    Now, all of this said, I would want to re-read Reassembling to see how this maps to Latour’s uses of these terms. As I recall, he is most interested in associations (and the “social”) in that book, but I don’t remember whether he uses connect, relate, and associate interchangeably. Attention to this level of detail–for definition work–is useful, though, and can lead to a more precise understanding of these terms, whether or not we use them to characterize networks (which, of course, would be all the more promising having traced the terms back through various materials on networks, like Latour’s).

    • Hearty thanks for the share! This is a bit later than intended, but maybe for the better, because I feel like I just started coming across more mention of structure and structuralist and post-structuralist in reading. None of which I have figured out yet. They got placed on my list of things to brush up on with Nature, culture, (post)modernism…

      But the problem with words/terms! Conceptions of what the term is and the problems with it. I feel like I use flexible/fluid/dynamic in front of everything so that these concepts are not perceived as static/rigid/set. Maybe that’s why we rely so heavily on metaphor?

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