I have had to tone down some of my initial goals for what I thought my network would be, but am still going to endeavor to make a semi-interactive network and a website to house information for people who are interested in viewing the affiliations that extreme right celebrities have.
However, considering the role that the Internet has had in the resurgence of populist fascism in the U.S. and beyond, I felt that paying special attention to “celebrities” with significant online presences might be an interesting way to visualize these connections. Although the term “network society” was coined in the early 90s, the origins of it are from before that in terms of how society would eventually be connected by wired communications. Famously, Castell’s work The Rise of the Network Society laid down the foundations of how he envisioned society would eventually function: it is not that networks merely exist within our societies, but rather are the very basic foundations of them. Although of course, I’m not saying that the Internet is to blame for the rise of extreme right-wing politics, it did play a part in the accessibility of the ideology to millions of people.
In that regard, how do we envision networks of Internet celebrities within the networked society? What conditions led to their rise, and how might these conditions also lead to their downfalls? These aren’t necessarily questions that I’m grappling with since my project will be mostly descriptive and for visualization purposes, but are ones that can be dealt with later in academic work. In terms of downfall, we have seen how although the affordances of the networked society have been great, they have also been detrimental: websites are being shut down, subreddits are being removed, and Twitter accounts are being banned. But this brings about another age-old issue in terms of how digital space is governed and regulated, which are things that will constantly be debated as technology outpaces the policies that control them. This project, although not necessarily intended to, has really helped me think about the power of platforms, infrastructures, and their roles in shaping and inhibiting social movements – which is the basis of my dissertation, stay tuned for more.
Theoretical musings aside, I’m following a tutorial on how to make my network graph because a lot of network mapping software does not easily allow for the creation of event-affiliation or bipartite networks. However, software like R that requires a lot of manual coding do allow for the creation of these visualizations. Although seemingly very descriptive, event-affiliation and bipartite graphs can be helpful in determining who belongs to some organizations, thus increasing their likelihood of encountering people who otherwise may be disconnected. I’m making slow progress on the graph because it is in d3.js, but there is an R tutorial that may help me move along faster. Either way, I’m grateful for the experience because instead of pointing and clicking, I’m actually managing to teach myself the foundational code of what makes up these networks. Foundations of foundations, we’ve gone meta.