The Return of the Rhizome: The Sequel



is my worst nightmare.

For all those unfamiliar with the horrifying implications of such a pile- that is what tangled jewelry looks like. For every jewelry wearing person, there comes a night when you lazily remove and throw your necklace into a pile on your dresser and wake up to find that a professional knot- tying demon has overtaken your entire collection of carefully curated necklaces. You may even find a rubber band or two lodged deep within.

With the determination of Kim Kardashian’s platinum blond-inducing hair stylist, you block out your entire morning to untangle the mess before you. Where are the ends? Which are the tightest knots? Will this tugging and threading ever end? Why do bad things happen to good people?


After we spoke about rhizomes in class, I kept thinking about spider webs. But after some quick Googling, I realized that urlwebs are far too organized and patterned to be a rhizome. See here:

I asked myself what can I compare an endless, complicated, interdependent and forever changing group of clusters to? And there I had it- a massive pile of tangled jewelry. Simultaneous with thinking about rhizomes and unpacking just how much sense they made to me as an explanation of so many parts of the world, I began to read Software Studies: A Lexicon.

While reading the mini chapters and trying to make sense of it all, I noticed a recurring theme- that of indirect comparison to a rhizome. Where this comparison first became clear was in the section on Analog. It says, “The root metaphor and lasting legacy of the analog era is therefore this concept of “system” itself, as an assembly of elements in relations of interdependence, altogether constituting a complex organized whole… in a system every part ultimately depends upon every other part, and the temporal linear chain of causes and effects is made circular” (23-24.) The idea that analog systems are essentially circular, based on interdependence and parts operating before, after and alongside other parts points away from a linear structure and towards a rhizomic one. This is even more obvious when Robinson says that analog systems are, “fluid, active, elastic, responsive, self- regulating, self- repairing, optimizing” (25.) Here, rhizomic tendencies are called feedback.

Even in the introduction, dictionaries are explained to have this incredibly cool (for lack of a better term) moment- where every word used in definitions is defined by the dictionary. There is a looping in and over and through itself- a tangling, if you will.

In the section about Codect, as well, there is an idea of language turning in on itself- where does coding and decoding begin and end? Language is an immense and complicated system in which when one part changes, it tugs and pulls at its surroundings, changing them and in turn setting of a ripple effect which is quite difficult to quantify.

Lastly, even the discussion of the “black box” in several sections (Buttons and Interactions) is reminiscent of a rhizome. You cannot see into a black box- cannot determine what is within, how it functions or why it functions. It merely is. It exists and that is how we understand it. As with a rhizome- perhaps we can understand parts of it, but it exists as a black box in which it is so complicated, dense and interwoven that as a whole, it is nearly indiscernible.

All of this leads me to think about my relationship to media and the internet. Parts of a rhizome can be connected (or disconnected) from an infinite number of other parts. The parts that are least connected may shrivel and die while the parts most connected will thrive and blossom, creating new connections for itself and the clusters around it.

This seems an appropriate metaphor for how things live and die on the internet. The most prized possession is accessibility. The more views you can access, the more sites you can link to, the more search engines results you can show up on, the greater the chance of survival. In the rhizome the makes up the internet and everything that touches the internet with a ten foot pole, the fight becomes one of access and connections.

I have not had enough time to really think about what that means or implies, but it certainly seems like a scary and vicious system of sustainability.

And with that, I’m exhausted.




~ by jds650 on February 21, 2016.

2 Responses to “The Return of the Rhizome: The Sequel”

  1. Content: I really like how you connected the rhizome piece to the reading for this week. I recognized that pattern too, and I think you articulated it perfectly! Your closing GIF/comment also made me laugh because I totally could relate after reading Software Studies.

  2. I just wanted to say that your introduction literally made me laugh out loud. The words, the viscerally conveyed dismay, the “why do good things happen to bad people”. Your voice here is strong, and quite humorous. Though I’ve never had the displeasure of untangling jewelry, I’m sure it’s daunting. The task of finding balance or order in such a mess of mind is frustrating to say the least. And that flows well into your discussion and self-assessment of rhizome, software, and the unknown. Also if you can be as determined as Kim K’s hair stylist, kudos you’re already winning.

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