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Network topologies

Topologías_de_redA network’s topology is the description of the way in which its nodes are connected.

There are three basic topologies:

  1. Centralized network: All the nodes but one are peripheral, and they can only communicate with each other through the central node. The disappearance of the central node impedes the flow to all the other nodes.
  2. Decentralized network: There is no unique central node but a collective center of connectors. The disappearance of one of the centralizing nodes leads to the disconnection of one or more nodes within the netwok, while the disappearance of the centralizing cluster would produce the breakdown and practical disappearance of the whole network.
  3. Distributed network: The disconnection of any of the nodes does not cause the disconnection of any other node. All the nodes connect with each other without necessarily having to pass through one or several local centers. In this kind of network, the center-periphery division disappears, and so does the power to filter the information that runs through it.

Network topologies, information structure, and political power

If we assume that “ender every informational architechture lays a structure of power,” as the old Cyberpunk slogan says, we can understand how the evolution of communication technologies have shaped the informational system and the media, and how it has triggered medium-term changes in the structure of political power.

For illustrative purposes we could say, in a somewhat simplistic way, that there are three large stages:

  1. Centralized, which corresponds to the birth of the press and the public sphere. It is the age of communication by post. The first local newspapers were born. Political organization in the form of “clubs,” like the ones formed by the Jacobins or the Girondists during the French Revolution, emerges. Both will make centralization a key feature of their State ideology.
  2. The centralized media system was a direct product of the telegraph and allowed the birth of the press agencies -when Reuters set up the cabling for the Crimean War- and of the professional journalist. Public communication became another industrial activity, and media groups developed a filtering power that ends up asfixiating the classic public sphere. The political structure characteristic of this era is the one develped by German social democracy towards the end of the 19th century: national mass syndicates and parties organized under a hierarchical territorial base, a local grouping or a regional or national company, coordinated through an international center under the democratic logic. The correponding State model is the federal or decentralized State.
  3. The distributed system, which dissipates the filtering power of the media groups. It corresponds to the development of the Internet, and to the easiness for creating electronic media for personal publication and edition like blogs, and with them, the blogsphere, the first distributed communication media. With it, large spaces of social and political transnational deliberation emerge.
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