Biomedia commentator, Eugene Thacker, and cyber culture theorist, Alexander Galloway, present a topography of contemporary political, social, and material space in their 2007 co-authored book, The Exploit (Thacker's fifth book relating to this subject and Galloway's third). The dominant metaphore defining this topography (which they rightly claim is not just a metaphor) is the "network," an ontological concept assuming that "elements" contribute to an amorphous and networked whole. While the very style of the book conveys networked form (the authors arrange the book format into "nodes" and "edges"), it is the authors' novel assertions that both risk overlooking the past and propel the book into new intellectual territory.
A number of studies utilizing similar theories echo the authors' attempt to move beyond the subject/object binary. Byron Hawk (2007) evokes complexity theory to produce an informed and useful concept of vitalism in rhetoric and composition. Helen Foster (2007) addresses the networked nature of writers and writing, complimenting network theory with Mikhail Bakhtin's concept of "dialogics." Margaret Syverson (1999) describes her "ecological" theory in terms of four concepts fundamental to complex systems: distribution, emergence, embodiment, and enaction. Sidney Dobrin and Christian Weisser (2002) challenge the anthropocentrism of social constructivist views, placing composition students within the broader environmental networks of "ecocomposition."
The Exploit captures what has come to light through technological, social, and political developments of the last century and particularly of the last decade. Since 9/11, America has become aware of and helped create the idea of a terrorist network (p. 16). And since then, the networked nature of things has become more apparent. For example, the virus is a network that contains a "protocol" or "code" that cuts across organisms, finding hosts in both biologically- and computer-based entities. It is in this network across various forms, often independent of human agency, that Thacker and Galloway claim we can find an exploit. Whether this can be done without addressing the ideological and historical factors that made the network paradigm possible is a question readers will confront throughout the book.