Infrastructures, Materiality, and Communities from Ancient Rome to Social Media10.1515/9783110740202.
Network is one of the most symbolic and obsessively repeated keywords in digital literacy. But networks are obviously not exclusively digital. In Ancient Rome, transportation networks were built and maintained to link a dispersed and immense empire. Postal networks were crucial in the early modern period to foster communications and acted as a premodern info-structure. Electric telegraphy, telephony, and then wireless allowed instantaneous communication from the nineteenth century, changing the sense of speed and place, and acting as info-structure for nascent train and plane systems. The word network was then applied to radio and TV in the twentieth century. After an overview of what we call digital network studies, this chapter aims to historicize and deconstruct the arguments surrounding networks in a long-term perspective, highlighting continuities and changes over time. We will focus specifically on two dimensions: networks as infrastructures and networks as socio-cultural tools to build communities.