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KCOE 4145 - Network Chaos

Type d'enseignement : Elective

Semester : Autumn 2018-2019

Number of hours : 24

Language of tuition : English



Course Description

The purpose of that course is to understand the political effects of the current transition to network forms of organization. The intensity of political turbulence and heightened conflictuality between and within generations, corporations, institutions and people is, indeed, obviously a result of the mass adoption of networking technologies. The distributed form of the network shortcuts the traditional architectures of power and creates unexpected forms of chaos that both reduce and increase political friction between players. Power is highly volatile and unpredictable, and cannot be appropriated by anyone (a single player, a coalition or a class) in the new accelerated environment. An unknown system has emerged that behaves randomly and cannot be understood solely as a consequence of globalization, “vulture capitalism” or economic inequality. Instances of this massive redistribution of power have abounded over the past ten years and have shown that progressive technologies that were mass-marketed as the next economic frontier or new forms of empowerment come with worrisome collaterals that threaten political stability in the name of radical openness and constant connectivity (think Amazon dynamic pricing algorithms, DDoS attacks, 2016 US Presidential Campaign or Cambridge Analytica scandal etc…). For all its unpredictability, roughness and savagery, network chaos is now our permanent political horizon and it is urgent we rethink our political categories to design polities better adapted to network change, more secure, flexible and robust (the European GPRD is one step in that direction). Using a mix of theories from the political tradition and the natural sciences, we will examine case studies that show why this situation is well understood as a phase transition, an idea already explored by Greek philosophers in the IVth century BC: chaos is intrinsic to any political organization because they are made of antagonistic elements that can only temporarily be reconciled. Constitutions change because they naturally decay and are bound to be destroyed as society's internal dynamics evolve. A simple truth that our shallow engrossment with machine intelligence has us too often forget: by nature, as Chester I. Barnard said, organizations are “shortlived” and “bound to fail” and they should be designed for that purpose. It is high time we “naturalize” our understanding of the network society…


MASSOTEAU, Karim D. (Consultant en stratégie de communication et d'information)

Course validation

1/ One class presentation (30%) 2/ Participation (30%) 3/ Final Paper (40%)



Required reading

Additional required reading

  • AZUMA, Hiroki, General Will 2.0.: Rousseau, Google, Freud
  • HIDALGO, Cesar, Why Information Grows. The Evolution of Order From Atoms To Economies
  • MOROZOV, Evgeny, To Save Everything Click Here. The Folly of Technological Solutionism
  • or, visit the Amsterdam-based Institute of Network Cultures ( and choose one title of interest to you among the available free epubs