The answer is, it depends. What kind of network? What defines a centre?
The Internet network has no direct epicentre. It is a correlation of hyperlinks that take you from one site to another. There is no defined beginning or end. It is defined only by the choice of the individual and their interests. If we think of the Internet as like a spiders web, there are multiple paths to get from A to B. Each strand of web meets an edge, or a node. Nodes are clusters of data. Universities, Government authorities, Wikipedia, are examples of these. One could argue that these clusters act as centres due to their high traffic flow, content supply, and use of hypertext, however there is no singular finite middle even among these.
The Internet itself doesn’t have an established centre, but when we see it from a slightly different perspective, it can. The consumer. The user. The man sitting on his La-Z-boy with cookie crumbs all over his shirt resting his iPad on his lap, provides an alternative angle. The user’s experience has a beginning and an end, being the start and end domains. Their centre is wherever they are at a particular time. WordPress is the platform I’m using to write this post, and therefore is my current online centre. They change. At this very moment in time, it is my centre of attention (pun intended) and I am fully immersed in it. In a web with no conclusive structure, the spider moves from point to point. The spider decides its own location, just as Internet
users doers choose theirs as they control their journey. Some will argue against this, using the example of multiple windows and tabs. My response; the content which holds the concentration of the person, the tab that is open, at any point in time is, at that point, the heart of their internet experience. Being computer literate or digitally literate is different to being network literate. Knowing how to digitally enhance images doesn’t help you publish them in an online environment. Network media requires the internet, and being network literate is knowing how to navigate through the ever-changing centres.
What about social networks? Transport networks? Family networks? Do they work in similar ways? Do all types of networks have similarity in the way they treat their centre? Each must be judged on its own merits. Transport systems typically have a centre, being the CBD or City, but social networks don’t. Friends utilise one another and usually a friendship group does not revolve around an individual (unless you’re Regina George from Mean Girls). In modern times, the nuclear family is fast becoming extinct, and separation and dispersion is accepted as normal. So we can cross families off the list for having centres. Ancestry is something different. Anything historical is the past, pre-present and therefore pre-centre. At least that’s the way I see it.
Now to end this post and go to a place that definitely possesses a centre – my bed.
Image source: Banzan of DeviantArt