The black comedy film Network (1977) explored a brief period of populist indignation presided by President Jimmy Carter during which distrust of big government and multinational corporations pervaded America's post-Watergate consciousness. A crazed television talk show commentator's weekly battle cry that he's "mad as hell and not going to take it anymore" captured a crisis of public confidence in American business and political leaders that was fueled by economic recession, Arab oil cartel price-fixing, and poor health and safety standards in industry.
Written by television industry veteran Paddy Chayefskey and directed by socially conscious filmmaker Sidney Lumet, the film also indicted the television news business as a profit-driven enterprise that compromised the public interest by sacrificing prestige-driven, hard news reporting for ratings-driven, lurid tabloid sensationalism. Far ahead of their time, the creators of Network anticipated the negative impact television's role as an entertainment medium had on the quality of news reporting and public discourse in an age of "reality" television and "personality-driven" political salesmanship.
The parallel themes of how corporate profiteering can subvert the public service potential of a powerful mass communication technology and how a gullible public can be seduced by pseudo-populist personalities were also explored in earlier Hollywood offerings like Meet John Doe (1933) and A Face in the Crowd (1957). Both films are cautionary tales about the mass media's co-optation by power-hungry corporate magnates and about the American public's willingness to vest faith in barefoot political messiahs (a Will Rogers-inspired radio personality in the former, a guitar-strumming folk musician in the latter). However, both films' endings also suggested that the mass media's political integrity remained intact and that the American public was capable of distinguishing a celebrity from a hero.
Anticipating the rise of a 200-channel cable universe as the public's window to the world, Network jettisoned from its outset any residual faith in television news's integrity and the people's ability to distinguish between reality and televisual fiction. Veteran television news anchorman Howard Beale (Peter Finch) appears on-camera drunk during his final six o'clock newscast after being told he had been fired for poor ratings. Denouncing the state of the world as "bullshit" while bordering on a nervous breakdown, the aging journalist's overnight ratings soared. The following week, the new chairman of the network (Robert Duvall) transfers control over its news programming from an Edward R. Murrow-inspired network news executive (William Holden) to a baby-boomer entertainment executive raised on television (Faye Dunaway).
The latter performs a makeover of the newscast, transforming it into a three-ring circus featuring Sybil the Soothsayer, the gossip Mata Hari "and her skeletons in the closet," and a "Vox Populi" segment starring the "mad prophet of the airwaves" himself, Howard Beale. As "The Howard Beale Show" takes off in overnight ratings, the network follows it up with "The Mao-Tse Tung Hour," during which it broadcasts home movies of a communist "revolutionary" group's (modeled on the Symbionese Liberation Army) weekly bank robberies and kidnappings. A particularly hilarious send-up of television network dealmaking occurs when the Afro-coiffed leader of the group warns network lawyers during negotations not to "fuck with my distribution costs."
Ironically, "The Howard Beale Show's" weekly mantra (announcer cue: "How do you feel?" Audience: "I'm mad as hell!") became a real-life bumper sticker slogan in 1978 for supporters of Jimmy Carter's successor, California Governor Ronald Reagan. In many ways, Reagan's election to the presidency proved a watershed in television's evolution as an entertainment medium. His deregulation of the television industry hastened the rise of ratings-driven news and talk show programming. A former television actor, Reagan also successfully sold himself as a "little guy" railing against the system while drawing support from wealthy, politically powerful Southern California business leaders.
Initially, much work concentrated on small-group and institutional structures, describing individual points (stars and isolates) and forms of cohesion (clique-detection), but after the 1950s network analysis concentrated more on structural characteristics, such as ‘bridges’ (persons who formed the only link between strongly connected groups), ‘balance’ (the tendency of highly cohesive groups to polarize), and more refined definitions of cliques. In the 1960s and beyond, the analysis of social networks was strongly influenced by mathematical sociology under Harrison White, became much more highly theoretical, and now supports its own journal (Social Networks). White was the focus of a highly productive and innovative group of students and staff at Harvard University in the 1960s and 1970s, and is best known for insisting upon social rather than individualistic concepts (for example, movement of clergy vacancies versus movement of individual clergymen), and for developing block-modelling techniques for studying ‘structural equivalence’ of network members sharing the same pattern of contacts.
Three main foci typify work in the area of network analyses. Egocentric networks are rooted in a single individual and depend usually on that individual's report of his or her network (such as, for example, E. Bott's study of the effect of overlap between spouse's networks, Family and Social Network, 1957). Systemic networks are constructed from all the participants in the network, and concentrate on the structure of the network itself, as in Mark Granovetter's identification of the importance of the ‘weak tie’ in obtaining new job information—whereby new information comes not from those who are in one's close circle of interaction, but from those in one's network who have access to different sources (see Getting a Job, 1974). Finally, diffusion studies explore the shape and form of flows within the networks, as in the processes of innovation, rumour, or epidemiological diffusion. For an overview of the field as a whole see Peter V. Marsden and and Nan Lin ( eds.) , Social Structure and Network Analysis (1982
). See also BALANCE THEORY.
net·work / ˈnetˌwərk/ • n. 1. an arrangement of intersecting horizontal and vertical lines. ∎ a complex system of roads, railroads, or other transportation routes: a network of railroads. 2. a group or system of interconnected people or things: a trade network. ∎ a group of people who exchange information, contacts, and experience for professional or social purposes: a support network. ∎ a group of broadcasting stations that connect for the simultaneous broadcast of a program: the introduction of a second TV network | [as adj.] network television. ∎ a number of interconnected computers, machines, or operations: specialized computers that manage multiple outside connections to a network | a local cellular phone network. ∎ a system of connected electrical conductors. • v. [tr.] connect as or operate with a network: the stock exchanges have proven to be resourceful in networking these deals. ∎ link (machines, esp. computers) to operate interactively: [as adj.] (networked) networked workstations. ∎ [intr.] [often as n.] (networking) interact with other people to exchange information and develop contacts, esp. to further one's career: the skills of networking, bargaining, and negotiation. DERIVATIVES: net·work·a·ble adj.
1. In communications, a rather loosely defined term applied to a system that consists of terminals, nodes, and interconnection media that can include lines or trunks, satellites, microwave, medium- and long-wave radio, etc. In general, a network is a collection of resources used to establish and switch communication paths between its terminals. A given network may be classified as a local area network, a metropolitan area network, or a wide area network, the differences lying as much in their style of organization as in their technology or geographical or physical size. Networks and servers have now largely replaced centralized mainframe computers in most applications. See also network architecture, packet switching, message switching, network delay.
2. In electronic circuitry, an interconnection of various electrical elements. A passive network contains no active (amplifying or switching) elements such as transistors; a linear network is a passive network that contains no nonlinear elements such as diodes.
3. (net) In mathematics, a connected directed graph that contains no cycles. Interconnections involving objects such as telephones, logic gates, or computers could be represented using a connected but not necessarily directed graph.
Network ★★★½ 1976 (R)
As timely now as it was then; a scathing indictment of the TV industry and its propensity towards self-prostitution. A television newscaster's mental breakdown turns him into a celebrity when the network tries to profit from his illness. The individual characters are startlingly realistic and the acting is excellent. 121m/C VHS, DVD . Faye Dunaway, Peter Finch, William Holden, Robert Duvall, Wesley Addy, Ned Beatty, Beatrice Straight, Lane Smith, Conchata Ferrell, William Prince, Ted (Theodore) Sorel, Lance Henriksen, Marlene War-field; D: Sidney Lumet; W: Paddy Chayefsky; C: Owen Roizman. Oscars ‘76: Actor (Finch), Actress (Dunaway), Orig. Screenplay, Support. Actress (Straight); AFI ‘98: Top 100; British Acad. ‘77: Actor (Finch); Golden Globes ‘77: Actor—Drama (Finch), Actress—Drama (Dunaway), Director (Lumet), Screenplay; L.A. Film Critics ‘76: Director (Lumet), Film, Natl. Film Reg. ‘00;; N.Y. Film Critics ‘76: Screenplay; Writers Guild ‘76: Orig. Screenplay.
collection or arrangement of items to resemble a net; anything reticulated or decussated—Johnson, 1755.
Examples: network of brass, 1560; of spider’s broods, 1781; of bundles, 1884; of canals; of fictions, 1856; of islands, 1839; of leaves, 1816; of lines; of pearls, 1881; of property, 1816; of railways; of ribbons, 1712; of rivers; of roads; of ropes, 1748; of trenches, 1871; of veins, 1729; of waters, 1857; of wrinkles.