A brief remark on Ian’s Unit Operation as I sit here at the airport. In chapter 10, Ian discusses the nature of networks, a theme central tomy own thought. Networks are one way of thinking about the emergence of larger scale objects. There are two key features in networks. First, networks emerge from the actions of smaller scale objects such as individual persons. Second they generate patterns of their own that take on an autonomous life of their own. Networks can be characterized in terms of conmectability among elements or units in the network. At a certain mathematical threshold, a point is reached where all units cannot be directly related to one another (a point Luhmann also makes when discussing the structure of systems). Here, also, it should be borne in mind that every unit can be thought as either a unit or a system. In other words, systems are units, individuals, or substances (the concept of substance always sneaks in the back door).
Because all units in a network of sufficient scale cannot be directly related to one another, certain nodes in the network come to function as “hubs” the relate non-related units as mediators. These hubs can be described as obligatory passage points units must pass through to connect with one another. Ian gives the example of major airports.
Hubs are such that they attract more linkages to themselves, reinforcing their primacy of place in the network. HereBogost gives the example of why the rich get richer as a result of occupying the function of hubs in a network. Through their high connectivity, they attract more wealth to them. What we have here is a way of thinking the dynamics of class fomation.
The result of these sorts of networks is that they become self-reinforcing, making it very difficult to dislodge existing patterns. This occurs by virtue of how the hubs continually draw certain relations to themselves. It is at this point that we get a higher scale object that is able to regulate it’s own parts independent of the actions of these parts. The logic here is paradoxical. The higher scale object emerges from the actions of the lower scale objects, but also becomes autonomous in it’s own right becoming a distinct substance.