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January 04, 2022

Some thoughts on Networks, and Rhizomes, especially in relation to my proposed topic for my dissertation - RX > [Strangeloop] > TX investigating the usage and transmission of strange loops in my artistic practice.

Following the session in December in which we discussed how networks reflect, and shape the world around us, there were for me too significant things which came from this

Networks require activity

It is perhaps stating the obvious, but a network requires activity - but sometimes such “throwaway analogies” are as Hofstader in “I Am A Strange loop” states “…for when they are examined, they can often to be seen to have sprung from, and to reveal, the deepest roots of human cognition”1

Conceptually a network can exist without movement - but they remain a purely logical construct - untested, and unproven - a valid exception is physically built networks, but I shall come to those. It is not till the nodes of those networks start to interact with one another, that the network truly emerges. Of course with this can come the delicious (or not based on your viewpoint) concept of the network not behaving as we intended, and of the actors / nodes within it not behaving the way we would like them to. (Whether this activity is positive or negative to the network - is another matter entirely).

In a way we can see this with physically created networks - a useful example, would be the appearance of desire lines / paths in public spaces, invariably contrary to planned routes - there reflection of the wisdom of crowds, and perhaps there overall acceptance shows how activity is vital in defining and establishing a network.

Networks exist on many levels

The argument of whether a network is centralised or decentralised, let alone if it’s actual behaviour mimics the network whilst highly useful and beneficial, can in it’s attractiveness - especially to debate! - obscure the fact, that depending upon view point, that there are multiple network types and behaviours all coexisting. That the creation / existence of a network of a certain type does not imply or enforce that network in higher level activities upon it. The most obvious example being understanding social media, it’s creation of a technically centralised system (though there is a whole interesting discussion about if something like Facebook is an entirely centralised monolithic system - with much of it existing on many, many individual servers responding to individual users) that creates an almost decentralised graph of human relationships and online behaviour - can be built on a technology which has it’s fundamental principles in decentralisation.

As someone interested in recursion, and it’s place in illuminating meaning in our sense of self, and cognition, it is hard not to see the parallels in this - for every step we take into this network of networks (cough some might say a Meta network) we see new behaviour, but also reruns of the behaviour we saw at a different level. This uncertainty / incompleteness to me reflects the great mystery, that perhaps we will never resolve, of how we can argue / desire a coherent structured, definitive view of the world and the things in it - but we will always come back to it never satisfying every single aspect. I can’t help be reminded of what it means to represent a multi-dimensional object in a dimension which has lesser dimensions - we can view a 4D Hypercube in 3D, and view that 3D view as 2D projection in a planar space - and it’s representation can not just be useful, it can help us see things we cannot necessarily intuitively grasp - but it only reflects a specific view point at a point in a time, and can never be the whole picture.

Coding Challenge #113:4D Hypercube (aka “Tesseract”)

Therefore building a Meta network (metawork?) view off network behaviour, can help us perhaps grasp the bigger picture…


  1. Douglas Hofstadter, I Am a Strange Loop, Chapter 11, p150
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