Croydon Slash New York: Networks, Riots & Markets

Not to force a point here, but the strange juxtaposition on Sky News last night that set in split-screen live coverage of the NYSE closing bell against helicopter shots of Croydon in flames after arson and looting seems more than an accident of conflicting and overlapping news agendas. No, this is an image that operates as a Venn diagram of some kind of diffuse connectivity between events.

Both events occupy media space not only as news images but also through the fact that they inhabit the same digital communicational networks. If BBM is, as is claimed, the method of organising London’s riots, it’s a strange (but not necessarily ironic) coincidence that the Blackberry was once the device that once symbolised the world of modern business.

Stock Photo: Business man holding Blackberry, via

Perhaps then, both the financial and social collapse represented here demonstrate the impact of communication technology on the very structures of society. Their ability to break down traditional hierarchies of space and time seem to leave traditional methods of control impotent. Economics and policing seem unable to exert their power over these fluid and accelerated evasions of the spatial organisations of either capital or urban space.

We could equally cite the collapse of private space evidenced by the phone hacking scandal (remember that?) where the procedural technology employed in the remote storage of voicemail atomises the most intimate of information so that it exists everywhere, all the time.

And as the phone hacking scandal indicated so completely, the relationship of politics, law, media, economics and technology exists in nothing less than conspiratorial relationship.

I would argue that this condition of conspiracy is not only caused by the manipulation by corporate or political interest but by the ways in which technology dissolves thresholds between traditionally distinct spaces – thresholds that maintained distinctions between one entity and another. Communication technology blurs these boundaries, in effect creating a flat, non-stick landscape that functions in conspiratorial manner. Everything joins up, eventually.

To characterise the riots as only criminal and lawless behavior is to set them in a state of exception outside of anything else. This, of course, is an untenable position. Instead, accidently or otherwise, it is much more instructive to show images of the US stock market in relation to rioting in a south London suburb. Economics, politics, looting and destruction not only rely on the same networks but are intrinsically linked as operations of the same totalising ideology that we all inhabit. The role then of contemporary politics is to understand, articulate and improve these complex networked relationships, rather than to deny their relational existence.

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  1. […] old West Indian Negro.” This is not the London Spring. British violence, American passivity. Networks, Riots, and Markets. […]

  2. […] It is still far too early for me to analyse the causes and context of the London and UK riots. But one thing is for sure: social media thingies have played a massive part (Sam Jacob at Strange Harvest makes the point better than I ever could; so read it here). […]

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