Centres, Margins, Distributions

Excerpt from Preface to 1984 Edition of bell hooks’ Feminist Theory. From Margin to Center.
Paul Baran’s network typologies from “On Distributed Communications”, a document prepared for the
United States Air Force Project Rand (1964).

Baran’s network typologies from the early days of computing (1964) are still referenced by Tecnopolitica researcher-activists at the forefront of social transformation today (see diagram below). Decentralized and distributed networks, politics and technologies are at the heart of Tecnopolitical practices, however their politics are far removed from Baran’s context of US Air Force funded research. Politically, Tecnopolitica would have more in common with the trajectory of bell hooks whose framework: emphasises ‘the centre’ (contrasted with the margin); suggests ‘the decentering of the West globally’ and a focus instead on ‘attention on the issue of voice. Who speaks? Who listens? And why?’ (p. 40, 1994); and continues to be a reference point today for people arguing for ‘decentering and decolonising knowledge’ (Moreno Figueroa, 2019).

However, the substance and vibe of the hooks’ text sends very different messages to these stylised network visualisations (above and below)….

Centres, Margins, Distributions