The connectedness of things

Sebastian Giessmann has published a book on the cultural history of networks. The network was formerly bound up with things – spider webs, fishing nets or traffic nets, to mention just a few. For some years now, it has been linked to the virtual world of social networks. Find here a short cut of and some remarks to this exciting book.

The semantic change of the term “net” from a tangible object to a symbolic meaning takes place in the course of enlightenment and industrialization. At the center of this movement is the infrastructure: roads, railways, telegraph and telephone are seen as networks. Material communication networks address the room as in towns or regions. A social network is detached from this physical network, its materiality is formed by interactions.

So, it is about networks as practices within a culture. The book deals with networks as a part of European material culture. It asks about the historical conditions in which nets become heterogeneous socio-technological networks. Originally, the net is a trap. Its technique is a decentral, emergent and complex phenomenon in history. It has always been linked to human actions and thereforce continues to be of a practical character.

Each net can be drawn as a diagram that combines elements: Nodes, lines, meshes. They are assigned with numerical values and can be calculated, as Amazon, Google or Twitter know. Their algorithms draw nets for our communication and change our interactions. If we do not take care, we are trapped in the same topics or connections presupposed by the calculation of data in the net.

Sebastian Giessmann, Die Verbundenheit der Dinge, Eine Kulturgeschichte der Netze und Netzwerke, Berlin, 2014.

Cite this blog post
Guido Koller (2017, September 15). The connectedness of things. We think History. Retrieved May 24, 2024, from

Guido Koller

Senior Historian, Swiss Federal Archives, CH-3003 Berne, Switzerland

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