Archive for the ‘english’ tag
I tagged all my post written in English (at least the ones containing the word “that” which is what I searched for) HERE.
I don’t write that much in English and it’s mostly write-ups on talks I have done. If readers (you poor Google Translate readers) bug me about it I will start to write more in English
In the end of May I was in a panel debate in Florence at the Terra Futura festival. The festival was mostly about ecological issues but it also had an internet section in which I was invited to talk about the Pirate Bay and other developments in the Swedish Internet scene under the topic of “Internet and democracy” (yes, very broad topic…).
My talk was really not much new for people who know the Swedish developments but here is a quick summary:
The last big news to reach Italy from Sweden was the Pirate Bay trial. What has happened since then is that the clusters formed before and during the trial have moved further to other issues and also going from activities focused on public debate towards direct interventions in political processes. The direct impact of a legal decision from a court compared to loose opinions from the copyright industry in the media contributed to this. At the same time, the Pirate Bay has faded as symbol of this movement (contrary to the situation abroad…). The Pirate Bay admins who were put on trial has mostly moved on to new projects, TPB has been decentralised and the copyright industry is attacking everything that is the least associated with the site.
Two clear directions can be seen for the post-trial movements. One is moving towards the internet infrastructure; building, hacking and intervening in political protests. The other is a renewed interest in post-digital circulations and the politics of physical space.
Connecting these developments to democracy, I claimed that what was at stake was building democracy in the long run. Realising that the open internet infrastructure is the only thing left to build on. If that is lost, there is no channel left at all for free communications. Also realising that the basis for a long-term democratic stability is also the communities being built. Self-organized communities will be the key actors of this kind of politics and the new relations they form with institutions and publics will be the important issue.
I also mentioned that the same is true when it comes to the cultural industries. No so called solution can save the music industry, only a process where self-organized artist/fan led communities are displacing the copyright industry model. As example I mentioned that Spotify has been seen as The Solution here in Sweden, when in the end it turned out that artist didn’t really get anything from there and that directly building communities from making videos for youtube and earning money from concerts is the models artists use today. I got that from this interview with the manager of Lady Gaga.
So the democratic aspect of net politics should not focus on the democratic ethic of every single act, but looking at the long term. What would happen in ten years if the copyright industry and control tendencies on the internet (and off it) would run freely for ten years. And on the other hand, what future could be created if the internet were defended and developed in an open fashion.
So much for my talk.
- The discussion started out by some marxist-inspired comments about the dominance of google that made so much money despite not producing any value. I added that we should question this idea of value and that what is valuable is to produce more stuff. Instead the selection and composing is sometimes more valuable than producing new. In fact, it is a little bit like saying that someone who makes a chair is not producing value because they are only removing wood. The chair was in that tree already from the beginning. Assembling, selecting, filtering and producing is becoming activities that gets harder and harder to distinguish and this creates a crisis of the value theory as it was expressed in this comment and the theories of exploitation that follows from them. I would love for someone with more insight in Marx’s value theory than I to comment on other interpretations.
- In general there was a lot of talk about Internet as its own sphere and a tendency to overlook its relation to non-digital structures. Perhaps the net politics in Sweden has matured enough to be able to see beyond the initial shock and awe of the internet but here the fascination still remain. For example Facebook was discussed and I made the comment that Facebook and its impact can not be understood by only looking at what happens at facebook.com. Not only is Facebook moving out of their domain to try to capture a larger part of the web, but the Facebook experience can also not be understood without seeing its link to the school yard or office space, to weekend parties and to club culture. It can only be properly understood if seen as a mesh of digital and non-digital structures being transformed by the use of Facebook.
- On a simliar note I speculated some on how to survive in this kind of complex environment and came to the improvised conclusion that what is needed for an entity is a combination of a firm, slow moving core and an outer zone of chaos functioning as a probe that tries out everything and fails fast until something sticks, in which case more resources is put on that specific field until a protocol is established in that space which further lets things cool down until eventually they are being consolidated as a new part of the expanding core. In culture, music in the internet era naturally has this tendency because of the few resources needed to experiment, which leads to protocols such as the Lady Gaga example above being quickly established. Within film on the other hand, this is lacking. It is still too institutionalised and too reliant on heavy, static infrastructure.
- Another comment I made was that the political problem of today is not the same as for the 68-generation – that is – “what needs to be done?”. This is actually quite clear. In fact there is a lot of things to be done. Too much to be done. To much that needs to be assembled, composed, rebuilt and so on. So the political problem instead becomes “how to get enough people involved?”. Or put differently – “How to delegate enough resources to solve this specific problem without sacrificing another equally important problem?”. There are too many tasks that needs to be accomplished. There are some efforts to try to solve this, such as; AI, smart algorithms, robots, micro management of time, performance enhancing drugs and swarm intelligence. None of them has really solved the root of the problem however.
These kinds of discussions on Internet, politics and culture has been going on for some time, fueled mostly by interest in the Pirate Bay and Piratbyrån. It will be interesting to see how this energy will be transformed if the change that has happened in Sweden already – with the fading of Pirate Bay as symbol and the closure of Piratbyrån (possibly also a Pirate Party without parliament seats in September) – affects discussions and activities abroad. In my experience these discussions are in some way lagging behind Sweden a lot and are often very naive and repeating the same questions we abandoned years ago (actually they are repeated here as well…), but at the same time they seem to contain a more radical and escalating part that perhaps comes from not having to begin from zero like we did. I for one is very excited to see what happens when they abandon the elemental questions asked from the reactive perspective of anti-copyright and start to explore this latent radical side for r
Eftersom jag ändå nämnde Jane Bennets Vibrant Matter i förra inlägget vill jag passa på att nämna att det komemr ske en läsgrupp bland ett flertal bloggar av den boken. Den har redan blåst upp några småstormar bland engelskspråkiga filosofibloggar. Gissningsvis kommer ooo-lägret att tycka om den men dissa den som alldeles för flödesinriktad. Jag citerar schemat här:
Host blog: Philosophy in a Time of Error (Peter Gratton)
Under discussion: Preface & Chapter 1, “The Force of Things” (and overview/interview).
May 30-June 5
Host blog: Critical Animal (James Stanescu)
Under discussion: Under discussion: Chapters 2 and 3, “The Agency of Assemblages” and “Edible Matter.”
Host blog: Naught Thought (Ben Woodard)
Under discussion: Chapters 4 and 5, “A Life of Matter” and “Neither Vitalism nor Mechanism.”
Host blog: An und für sich (Anthony Paul Smith)
Under discussion: Chapters 6 and 7, “Stem Cells and the Culture of Life” and “Political Ecologies”
Host blog: Immanence (Adrian Ivakhiv)
Under discussion: Chapter 8, “Vitality and Self-interest,” and the book as a whole (final overview).
Visst, jag är en kass bloggare som återanvänder intervjusvar och inte skriver kontinuerligt. Jag känner skammen! Här kommer i varje fall ett svar till ett brittiskt galleri som undrar om piratbyrån är oroliga för att våra idéer ska kuppas av “the mainstream” och urholkas. Det kommer nog med i en antologi.
We have always followed the way of Kopimi, the will to be copied, which flips the question of recuperation around. It is “we” that recuperate “them”. If you think like a hacker, the more advanced the media industry makes things, the better the hacks will be. The iPhone is super advanced, which means a jailbreak of the iPhone gives you a great device. Same thing with Despotify, the software that made it possible to save tracks from Spotify, the music industry straming service.
Really, I dont think recuperation is such a big problem. It’s good if it happens, because then you can advance one more step. The worst that can happen is if you are stuck in the same problem, repeating the same conflicts. And given that the innovation happen at the edges of the network, the more the complex hierarchical organisations of the industry tries to move in the direction of the network, the better it is. Because the internet will always be faster and further than what they do. If they try to recuperate what we do it only means that we have a better plattform to work on and that the problem becomes more advanced, that is filled with more potentiality.
I am also simplyfiying things here by talking about us and them, systems and mainstreams. Lately we have instead been thinking in terms of tunnels. Large and small, temporary or reinforced, with connections to each other. This is what the internet is, a system of tunnels, there is no surface or center. And you can extend this logic to things outside the net as well. For example the last years we stopped consider the EU to be a system which sends out laws and instead a system of bureucratic, legal, communication systems and discursive tunnels that is suprisingly open. Sometimes you have to dig a bit, but it is completely possible to enter into these processes and start working on them instead of seeing it as an abstraction that you can only be for or against. By whoever has the means and time, this should be done with the cultural industries as well to discover that they are in fact assembled as societies with different parts that can be disconnected and modulated. In relation to what we do, some amplfy the effect of it, some neutralize it, some straight try to attack it, but they can also be turned against one another.
We don’t feel that we have to protect our ideas and activities from recuperation because the essence of what we are is not a position but a movement. A way of moving and transversing different political issues. All projects are events and movement. So the question is how these event interact with different parts of activist, capitalist and cultural logics. This can only be answered by experimentation.
Ska till florens om en månad och svara på frågor till bloggen för tillställningen:
This is evident because intellectual property is not just a law but an entire system of production, of desire and of organizing social and networked spaces. If you go down the path of intellectual property, and of stricter and tougher intellectual property laws, there is a whole system that also needs to follow on that. The copyright industry needs the copyright law, but along with this they need networks that work in their favour, people that desire their products, controlled urban spaces for entertainment, certain kind of communication technology and devices, cities to be arranged a certain way, databases that store data on network users, certain enforcment procedures, international trade treaties and so on. They need to assemble all of these entities around the law because the law can’t sustain itself. The further network technology evolve, the more of these support structures needs to be put in place to make intellectual property work and they bring enormous damage to society and create a kind of inelasticity that prevent new social dynamics to evolve. 2)But besides trials, what do you think about corporations or
I’m not too afraid of the resources of the web being used for business purposes. Users attention is like a natural resource that can be used for business, art or activism. It’s just about learning how to use it and since we can be in a much deeper contact with the network culture than most companies I think we have all the opportunity to engage with the network in a deeper sense that the pr-departments of the companies. Networks can’t be controled by corporations, only modulated and that also means there is a possibility of contesting their use of them and turn their services or campaigns into other directions. As long as the network remain open and neutral I dont have a problem with the media industry or other actors trying to get a piece of it. Im confident enough that there are better alternatives than their so called professional content. But I say as long as they remain open and neutral because this is not necessarily the case in the future. The copyright industry can’t compete on a fair basis but always need laws and infrstructure that put them in a monopoly situation. This is what they will try to get and frankly I’m sick of them. There was a time when I kind of felt it would be nice if they learned to adapt to the ways of the internets, but ACTA is just the latest example of how they completely refuse, or rather are incapable, of transforming their complex hierarchical organizations into something different and therefor will continue to rather change the legal and infrastructural environment they operate in than change themselves. So there it’s them or the internet now…
3) In sweden we are in a time now where the first-generation entities such as Piratbyrån and Pirate Bay occupy less space (this has mostly moved abroad) in favour of new names for entities, such as telecomix, the julia group and in a certain arena, the pirate party. This is because new areas have been opened up by the former. Looking at TPB you will see some familiar names popping up elsewhere as well (check the credits of the WikiLeaks video of the helicopter attack in Iraq…). So let’s just say that the ecosystem of swedish pirate related activity is doing very well. And I think this broad ecosystem with fuzzy borders between organizations is the key. New ideas can get support easily and new problems gets discovered and tackled immediately. Around the pirate archipelago there is also a vast ocean of swedish internet life, from programmers to journalist who thanks to the web2.0 services like twitter are now in immediate contact with each other.
This post will be an english summary and extension of my talk at festa dei pirati in Rome, Italy on the 20th of March. It was called “Fighting the 3D Reptiles” and was about the media industry vision of the future internet.
Festa dei Pirati is a weekend of seminars, performances and discussions organized by a broad coalition of Italian groups interested in things from free culture to law. I spoke at last summers Festa dei Pirati too, that time about the history of Swedish file-sharing movement, the Pirate Bay trial and the activism that followed that trial dealing with EU law. Because the last year, a lot of internet activism, actually most internet activism, has come to be about fighting nasty laws on national, EU and global levels. This has been done in the name of concepts like democracy, freedom of speech and citizens rights.
This is great activism, but it also feels like in the middle of this it is easy to loose track of what you are doing and why. Its easy that the law sets the framework for the activity. Beyond fighting for these values, democracy, freedom – we also need to update our conception of how we think the internet can rearrange social relations, spaces and culture.
There used to be a time when being for the internet was enough, because everyone else was so far behind. That our opposition was against the internet, stuck in analog ways of thinking and so on. Your own position could just be one of “pro-internet” and that was fine. No need to think more about what that meant.
My talk argued that this kind of futurism is not a good position anymore and that we should look for something else.
Because the media industry is fighting a two front war today. On the one hand there is the lobbying for laws that have come to define internet activism, but on the other hand there is a lot of resources spent on research into the “future internet” which redefines what internet is about.
This future internet is composed of several components. There is a new kind of content, “immersive experiences” composed of high quality, streaming, sometimes 3D, content on your HD-TV coupled with simple services, that is supposed to be better than the poor media experiences of internet today. There is also a new legal framework that has to be in place to support this, hence the laws. And finally there is a new kind of network that have to be implemented to carry these heavy streams, which involves new cooperation between network provider, hardware manufacturer and “content provider” where this data will be prioritized to ensure the quality of service.
This future internet has several functions. It is a way to battle piracy by providing something that can’t be pirated (only if you have deals with the network provider you can transmit this), it creates a business model (you stream it so you can charge for it) and it creates desire (people will want the media industry’s products again).
One consequence of this for the internet activism that is fighting laws is that before it could be argued that the copyright industry wanted laws so they could stop the internet and conserve their old business model. But with this, they can instead argue that the laws have to be implemented to enable the future internet. All of the sudden it is the internet activist who is the reactionary, wanting only to stay with today’s internet and not evolve into the future. Criticism against the copyright industry will sound retro and nostalgic. The media industry now “gets the internet” and can claim that they are the digital future.
So what’s wrong with 3D future internet? If the consumers want internet to be streaming content on their TV, who are we to say that this is wrong? Isn’t this just a version of old cultural critique of the false conciousness of the masses who are being fooled just because they don’t do as the avant-garde wants? No, it’s not. The reason is that it is not only about creating the subjectivity of the 3D-desiring user. The whole system of laws, networks and desire has to be put in place. It is not so much the service itself that is the problem, but all that have to be put in place in order for it so function. Also no matter if this future internet will be realized or not, it can already as a vision have damaging consequences for how decision makers imagine the future of the net. So, we need to bring forth another vision of what the future internet can be, which of course, on contrary to the coordinated vision from the media industry won’t be one single vision. I’m not going to give that vision here, but I have some points that I believe will be crucial components. Things that are not covered by the 3D-vision of the internet. Yes, I will also explain why I have this aversion against 3D…
These three points are:
- Disruptive development
- Post-digital circulation
Which constrasts three characteristics of the Future Internet:
- Digital services
Let’s go through them as pairs:
Disruptive vs. linear
The Future Internet vision is a linear vision that has to create new desires by increasing the quality of transmission every 18 month or so (when the shock and awe of the last format is gone) while still retaining about the same cultural setup. Streaming film or sports will be about the same even though it is with a 3D effect or with the ability to choose angles. The linearity also means that it is possible for them to predict the future by just increasing one variable, and then have every part of the “value chain” working towards the same vision.
Against this we should pose an internet that is fundamentally disruptive. That don’t progress by linear increment but disrupting of entire ways of doing culture. It is also a perspective that acknowledges that a number of external factors can change the state of the entire cultural system. This means that it is a more risky version that can’t predict the future and that suggest that resources into developing the internet should be devoted to covering a number of different scenarios. The disruptive perspective is not about the quality of an expression that remain the same but fundamentally change and invent cultural expressions.
The linear progress also invites one to wonder what will be next. When they have gone from HD to 3D. What is next? There is not another dimension to add and more quality won’t really be perceived by humans. One suggestion that came up during a wine lunch in Rome was the bubblenets. The idea was that you would mount a bubble helmet on your head, which locks around your neck for the period of your subscription (minimum 18 months). This helmet would then augment and manipulate your reality with various special effects. Make it more beautiful, exciting, informative and so on. On the downside, the helmet woudl also only let air in if your paid for the premium service. A joke of course, but the bubblenet would have components that should be taken seriously. The locked-in, subscription-based format and the idea of takning something that used to be free (air) and charge for it. This process has been dubbed “Spotification“.
Post-digital / digital
The digital vs. analog debate is played out. The media industry is heavily pushing its “legal services” and Future Internet technology. Today it is them who has taken over the role as digital advocates while the internauts are now comfortably circulating in and out of networks. The digital services of the Future Internet wants the consumer to satisfy all possible need within the system. In the post-digital perspective on the other hand, the system always creates a surplus that must get an outlet outside of the system. Simple example is of course the relation between downloading music and music festivals/clubs/concerts. The post-digital perspective also has the advantage of regaining a perspective on the city and how the intenrets ability to form communities effect the city and creates demands for a new kind of city life.
This is a perspective that challenges the idea that culture equals content and delivery of content. That the meaning of culture is stored in the content which is retain across several relations. Instead, what makes culture meaningful is it being performed, and this performance happen in every point across its circulation and is performed by a number of different actors. The Artwork/Network perspective is an ecological perspective that focuses of where and how culture circulates.
This list of features of a different future of the internet than the one presented by the media industry is definitely not final, but points out the need for having one, or at least attacking the problem, and shows that there is a lot missing in the vision they present. Apart from the vision of the media industry, there is also a lot of future internet visions outside of the cultural field that should be thought of. For example everything that now gets the prefic “smart”. Smart cities, smart education, smart transport, smart healthcare. For a glimpse of that, check out this video by IBM.
The important thing to remember when dealing with this is that there is no evil plan and there is no use of being against this. Rather it is about knowing that what is presented, simply because it is presented by companies with certain momentums, competences, demands and traditions, will be a very limited view of what the internet can be. It is not that they have considered the ideas we have and discarded them. They simply are ignorant (which doesn’t mean they would like what they would here). Trust me, I go to their conferences.
We must add to this and make sure it is possible to add to it. And it is possible to catch them completely by surprise, making their visions look completely ridiculous. Problem is that their stuff is all that some people with the cash get to see.
I used to love pop. Pop in the various indies of the 90′s was great, when it was taken as a serious subject of analysis and being. Styles evolved, tastes were developed and refined. Pop in the beginning of 2000 was AMAZING, when it popped up everywhere; mutated and freed from all anxiety. This is when we started Piratbyrån. Piratbyrån was pop to the bone. Piratbyrån was about going to awards and sippin champagne, hustling free tickets for movie premiers that was already out on the pirate bay, about being super good looking and fine connoisseur of movie, music, software and philosophy, living the life-style to the fullest, but getting it all for free. Piratbyrån was about accelerating contemporary culture. Wellfare begins at 100mbit, yes, let’s all live life anti-oedipal, now!
Copyriot describes the atmosphere (Please read that post and the comments on it…):
This accelerationism also enabled a certain political transversality and new alliances between hackers, artists and intellectuals, and it could quite easily be underpinned by a mainstream deleuzianism and/or benjaminism.
Skip to 2010:
To be associated with pop today is to be associated with digital music sales, innovative business models and streaming music services; which is exactly as unsexy as it sounds. There is no exciting surface, even to transverse as free flying nomads anymore.
Copyriot again from the same post:
Now in 2010, we are tunneling communications. Well, we do not only dig tunnels – we also connect them to post-digital spaces – but we certainly do not call for accelerated communications any more. At least, acceleration has ceased completely to be politically interesting
There is a need for a new strategy that i can’t quite formulate yet, but I think the new attitude and status of tunneling is a key factor. When the tunnel used to be a way of hiding from the mainstream (literary the main stream), of shying away from the flow of pop culture, that stream don’t flow so much anymore. The tunnels on the other hand have been transformed into something else than a hiding place. It seems that here is where the movements are. In a totally smoothed surface, when no movement can exist without being immediately in the spot light, transformed into a transaction, the activity moves into the tunnels. Not for reasons of shadyness, but for nurturing. Tunneling is rather than accelerationism a part of escalationism (again, following the argument form CR). It is a quest for making space, or rather place, happen. Each activity also generates its on geography and it interlocks and overlaps with other activity, in fact any activity can be connected, but it takes work to make tunnels. Tunneling is ontological.
Not how this differs from subcultures or old school cryptoanarchism. It is no longer a dialectic with the mainstream. The logic is not “OR”, surface OR underground. It is rather an AND. This tunnel AND this tunnel AND this tunnel, making up new spaces.
Many questions remain to be explored though (tunnel activity is planned..). For example,a s i stated in a comment at the CR-post already in 2006 Piratbyrån said that: “The alternative to p2p piracy is not No Piracy, but person2person piracy” and by on the one hand stating that the efforts against piracy were fruitless, on the other hand warning against the loss of the open index. How can this be managed in tunnels? There is no map of the tunnels. Redundancy is one way of solving it, but what else is there?
I described a similar relation about a year ago in a presentation at transmediale summarized here: http://www.blay.se/2009/01/30/transmediale-shuffle-terror/
That time it was instead the relation between the open ocean and the scrubby forest that was explored (and jungle vs. tunnel has been explored in the comments at Copyriot).
Perhaps by bot is trying to deal with the same comparison of forest and tunnel.
02:45 + tellurian | monki: In this soggy mess, tunnels are dug more easily, even though they may collapse without warning. #tunnel()
Is that an encoded description of the raid on forskningsavdelningen?
The nobel prize winner Barack Obama has at least done something during his presidential period. He finanzed a war in Mexico. The war on drugs. American dollars are financing the horrible and pointless battle that the mexican governement and military is waging against “the narcos”.
It’s not an easy task. The narcos are well rooted in the mexican society. They build entire cities in the north. The only cities that can provide its citizens with functioning health care and infrastructure. They build their own super advanced mini-submarines and it wouldn’t be surprising if they already built their own internet.
Actually, narcos seem to be the only ones who can build something stable and functioning in the country. The rest is a series of failed attempts of privitisation therapy. The latest being the mexico city gas company which is now under siege by riot police since the president deemed it too ineffective (also following protests where the union of the electricity company thretened to cut electricity in the city).
At a hacklab in Mexico City, a spanish guy from a hacklab in Madrid has arrived to organize a hackmeeting. Chairs are lined up on rows facing a stage in the small occupied basement. The room is too small to have any conversations without interrupting the speaker so everyone is forced to listen to them. The organiser himself is talking for two hours about his owns projects. He reads from a poster of rules for how to make a hackerspace. “…and a hackerspace must always…always be outside of the state”. Rules for how to be an anarchist, rules for how to be radical. On the wall there are notices that everyone is encouraged to help with the dishes and to sleep over since the space values community, democracy and autonomy.
The hackerspace is very careful with who is allowed to enter the space since they want to keep the autonomy. The mötley crew making up the newly formed wikiparty is not allowed since the space want to be independant from parties. Geraldines presentation of F.A.T. is looked upon with sceptisism because it’s not clear weather art is radical enough to be featured. After a while she is allowed to do the presentation with the outspoken reason that they need more female representation.
“It’s not a question of _if_ the narcos will win but which of the narcos that will win”, someone said during a conversation. Even the government is of course filled with connections to the drug trade. They only pretend that they can institutionalize this greyzone economy.
No, in mexico city you can’t build formal institutions, not even if you call yourself an anarchist, a hacker, or a government. Mexico can forget about finding a plan to implement all throughout society. 60% of the economy is already an informal greyzone economy. And despite that, or because of it, the city functions. As Geraldine says “we only have to make these greyzones THE PLAN instead of trying to come up with a new one.” Maybe this requires that the narcos win the war. They have build a huge, advanced economy by living of these greyzones and learned to adapt to the rapidly changing and chaotic environment that is the life in mexico city. We only have to make them stop chopping peoples heads and leaving them outside schools…
(Summary of a clinic, a deppening and intimate format giving warm associations to Guattari and SPK, about Piratbyrån at the Transitio festival here in Mexico City. This is actually the second clinic, but the first was mostly about basic Piratbyrån stuff that can be read elsewhere or about themes that will be developed furher)
Through the file-sharing debate, Piratbyrån turned into a political project on mass media terms. It was seen as a group representing the interests of the file-sharers. It created a debate about interests groups against each other, such as pirates vs. anti-pirates and trying to find the compromise in-between and posed binary questions such as should file-sharing be legal or not, should we have intellectual property or not. It was all based on society being changed by a public debate coming up with a solution that would later be implemented by law and therefor assumed to be the state of affairs all over society.
The walpurgis ritual where the file-sharing debate was buried marked a distancing away from this debate towards a project based on a friendship investigating the interface between analog and digital environments that the internet and file-sharing had created not because of what the law said but that that was a material reality despite what the law said.
This was also due to that intellectual property itself started to look less like one of these crucial tipping points. Perhaps a symbol for this is the story of Getty Images. Mark Getty who owns the image database getty images is the son of an owner of oil companies and famously stated sometime in the first years of the millenium that “intellectual property is the oil of the 21st century”. This would imply several things. One of them spells WAR, and we do have seen the war on file-sharing. Another thing it implies is a resource by which you control other resources. By increasing or limiting the supply of oil you can shake the entire world economy. This seems true of intellectual property as well. The coalition of record companies that control the majority of copyright for music are able to decide which digital service using music are able to exist or not by giving them or not giving them permission to use their music in their service.
But in 2008, Getty images was sold really cheap. It seemed that there were no demand for this static archives of copyrighted professional images. The news agencies preferred photos taken at the event with mobile phones and advertising agencies have moved from selling products with images to selling them with social communication and buzz marketing. So maybe intellectual property is too static, too much like physical products to really have a value in the 21st century. What instead is powerful is the micro control of attention. Controlling the realtime flows and having the power to build community and create meaning.
This exploration is what the first clinic was about. The ability of internet to create new dynamics of communities. The second clinic is about how this exploration of the material realities of the digital experience created a return to politics, but this time on our own terms – the net politics.
The net politics in Sweden grew out of the learning experience of the oppositions to the FRA law, a surveillance law which would allow a military body that previously have monitored russian radio traffic to monitor internet cables. At first, criticism of the law was framed in an idealistic way of finding a compromise between different interests, such as the national security vs. the right to privacy, personal integrity and the right not to be surveillance by the state. But as the debate moved on, this idealistic critique was transformed into a materialistic one that rather used the knowledge of networks than appealing to abstract rights. For example, the FRA claimed that they were only going to monitor traffic going in and out if the country and therefor not monitor the communication between Swedish citizens. But anyone with basic knowledge of the internet and packet-switching networks know that it is a transnational network without fixed paths. So a digital communication between two people located in Sweden often crosses national borders depending on where the networks is the fastest. Also because of “the cloud” a lot of people might have their emails stored on servers in the US.
This material netpolitics can be said to have two characteristics:
1) It is a politics based on risk and non-linear systems. Risk first of all in the sense that it has to deal with politics about things to come. Because it deal with socio-technological systems it has to intervene before they get plugged in. But it also deals wth risk in the sense that these systems might seem secure when presented as fool-proof systems, but technological systems can always be missused and databases always leak.
The non-linearity is important because taken one by one, these surveillence systems don’t seem to be that dangerous, but the analysis have to take into account the assemblage created by combining several of these systems and the non-linear effects this might have on control and surveillence.
2) The second characteristic is about the topoogy of netpolitics. It is very different from the traditional view of politics as “both sides having their say” and that truth ro politics would be somewhere in the middle. It is not a politics that identifies with an interest, not a politics of us-against-them, but rather us-against-ourselves.It is not a politics that fight with an enemy for the power over something already present (such as power over the parliament) but one that realize that what is at stake is if we manage to build the kind of societies and communities that are able to create the world that we desire.
So what kind of politics can be called netpolitics? One way of looking at it is to view it as politics that are about issues of the internet and is contained to these issues. This is a very reductionist way of looking at it. The opposite way of looking at it is politics that uses the internet as a tool and therefor can be extended to any issues. This would be to make it so broad that it becomes pointless. A third and better choice would be to view it as politics and practicies whose point of departure is the material experience of the internet. A politics that is affirming the open net and the communities it makes possible and tries to widen the circles of these communities.
Netpolitics creates itself by performing new kinds of communities. This is a long and hard process that have to be made step by step. This definition means that it will collide with videocrats such as Berlusconi or Ahmadinejad as well as the copyright industry and other interests that rather looks to limit the openness of the internet.
This material netpolitics in Sweden eventually started to get interested in the law. Not as a way of breaking with the interest for the material in favor of traditional politics, but because it found a way to apply the same material perspective to politics and the law which is usually viewed in an idealist way. This was done by a method learned by the french group “La Quadrature du Net” which started to treat the law as a code. A code full of bugs that you need to find and submit patches to that fixes these bugs. These bugs were formulations put into law texts through backdoors which would allow the copyright industry to interpret them in internet unfriendly ways. So instead of opposing these huge laws of the EU, traditionally done by political activists after they have become implemented, they went into the political process in realtime at the level of sentences and words and viewed these as performative, not representational. La Quadrature was interested in information policy issues and they used the internet as a political tool to great success, but what really makes their method into net politics is that they used the experience of the internet to gain a new perspective on how to do politics.
After this introduction about net politics, the clinic turned into a conversation on a number of issues that I will present here as a set of questions and answers.
Isn’t net politics a generational issue? Yes, it is. And this is obvious if you look at statistics from the EU election where the pirate party got 7% in total, but over 25% with people under 30 years old. The reason we can’t only wait for this net friendly generation to gain power and fix everything is that these technological laws, such as the FRA law, are almost irreversible. Because they are about the material infrastructure, about plugging in the cables for this surveillance system, it is rather easy to create them by law, but much harder to reverse the process and remove the cable with law. Once they become material, politics can’t reach them as easily. This is not at least the case with laws on the internet that limits the potential political space that the internet creates. So what is at stake in net politics is the political process and the techno-social being itself. Therefor net politics is also ontopolitics.
Does this net political perspective only have relevance in Europe or does it also apply in the mexican situation? The first comment to this question was that in mexico there are neither laws nor politicians to influence. Internet is just not on the political map at all. What is the effects of this? The positive effect is that you won’t have any political energy spend on controlling the net, but the negative and overwhelming effect spells MONOPOLY. Carlos Slim can go amok and eat up most of the infrastructure and manipulate his networks in any way he pleases.
Will the internet be turned into a broadcast medium? Even in mexico this tendency is present with very asymmetrical connections and in europe this is present in proposals of what the “future internet” be about. A related comment was that facebook and other social networks are only used for everyday communication and not to talk about these issues. My response was that even this everyday communication establishes a habit of horizontal communication and challenges this idea of internet as a broadcast medium. Also these networks can be turned into tools for political communication, but this demand realtime events to trigger this. This happened for example when twitter or youtube was used during the turmoil after the iran election earlier this year. This is because these realtime political events are impacting everyday lives and are happening here and now, just like the casual information that otherwise populate these networks. However, for political communication on a more abstract and long-term level, other forums will work better. This dependence on events gives the net politics a kind of goldfish memory. The same goldfish memory is apparently present in mexican politics where events can become issues or scandals but life will soon be back in the material everyday.
What is the next big threat to the internet? AT&T. We have to watch for them. They are trying to take over the european information infrastructure. AT&T once tried to break into the mexican market but failed completely. They couldn’t fight the combination of state and slim monopoly. This might save Mexico! Mexico might have their sonderweg while the rest of the world is stuck in AT&T-net.
So how do we save the internet? This spawned a discussion on the difference between distributed and decentralized networks. Today, the internet is distributed, which means that is read out, but dependent on certain obligatory points of passage which, should they be destroyed or manipulated, would create island that wouldn’t be able to communicate with each other. A decentralized network wouldn’t be dependent on these points of passage. So even if the combination of regulation for net neutrality and a completive markets sustain the network for a while, in the long-term we also have to push the infrastructure of the internet more toward a decentralized network.
Is the internet a collective consciousness? Today, this is only an idea or a utopia that grows from the experience of the internet. Sometimes a good notion, sometimes a notion that creates smoke screens. To realize this idea, we need to change both the infrastructure and the code of the internet in the sense of not having one file on one computer belonging to one person, but decentralize the representations of the digital information and connect the surplus storeage and processing power of computers into one big network. So, in other words, to get our fluffy collective concoiusness, we first have to become hard core materialist and care about the physical location and movements and relations of every bit, storage space, cable and microprocessor.
So, the material is back. The idea during the first part of the net that the future consisted of a immaterial economy, even claims that IP is the oil of the 21st century, is fading when the material, through the current netpolitics together with the three big E:s, energy, ecology, economy, reminds us of itself again. That the cables would be less important than the information passing through them was a fiction created by the historical singularity that is the internet.
What is the future of file-sharing? Several tendencies push file-sharing from completely open system towards semi-private ones. The efforts of anti-pirates might be one reason, but more importantly is that the value of contextless information is decreasing and that the discovering and distribution of copyrighted material gets closer to the way information is spread in social networks (both on- and offline). Here, the value of the information is in the performativity of the network as much as in the content of the file itself.
What do you think about Pirate Bay moving to the cyber bunker? This is a perfect symbol of the distributed network. We are dependent of one point of passage and therefor have to protect it at all cost. But even the bunker is dependent on the grid in the sense that a cable (actually two, one for internet and one for energy) must connect the bunker to the rest of the internet.
Often it is radio technology that saves internet in difficult situations. For example in a case such as when the government of Burma cut the cables to the rest of the world during turmoils it is satellite and other wireless technologies that are still able to function without having to rely on the Burma-grid.
Do you know of Luther Blissett? Yes, in the beginning we were inspired by Wu Ming and Luther Blissett, but we haven’t made use of similar tactics. Collective identities as this is a mass media phenomenon and only useful when you communicate through their channels, that is a channel of communication that you are not able to control. Mass media communication is based on the identity of the sender, on the source of the information, on the figure of the author. This configuration can be hacked by a collective identity.
The actual technology behind mass media is also based on the signals coming from one source, so this is reproduced in the format as well. On the internet however, information travels in packets and reaches you through the network, not directly from the source. Therefore, the format most typical of the infrastructure of the net is the meme, which is a piece of information separated from its source. Working with memes on the internet is thus much more powerful than working with identities in whatever format.
The closest we get to a collective identity on the net is anonymous, but unlike Luther Blissett, the style of anonymous, the “personality”, is in the memes, while the identity is an empty container.
(Talk given at transitio_mx 09)
I will begin to introduce myself and Piratbyrån, the bureau for piracy. And use our development as an entry point to talk about the issues we will touch upon today. A one sentence description of Piratbyrån would be a cluster, a network or a mileu that is exploring the impact of the infinite abundance brought about by digital copying by means of language and action. It can sometime be technological as with the pirate bay, sometimes artistic as with the bus project s23 and sometimes political, even trying to influence formal political processes.
We have been around a long time for an internet project. It started six years ago in september 2003 as something of a joke. There was already an anti piracy bureau, so we put up a website of the “piracy bureau” which became a site for critical discussion on intellectual property and spreading of knowledge of the filesharing techniques around at the time. The establishment of Piratbyrån as a public actor started a new public discussion in Sweden, which has going on ever since. Our curiosity and our unwillingness to form static positions but look for new spaces to explore was what made us maintain the project, instead of just letting it dissolve after a few months, as usually happens with web projects.
Our view and experience of what copying do to our lives have changed a lot since the beginning. When we started, Sweden had just had it’s IT-bubble, starting somewhere in the end of the 90’s and having resulted in massive state sponsored broadband expansion and basically a computer in every home. So this led to copying on a massive scale and new kinds of access to information. But no one had realized what consequences this would have. When we started we envisioned a linear development from analog to digital. We wanted more bandwidth and more access. To be more online and to have access to more culture was was going to transform us and our world into something better.
This made perfect sense at the time, but somewhere between then and now we ended up in a state where we can no longer just talk about digitalization as a quantitative question, or to be more or less online. Instead we find ourselvs faced with the infinite abundance of information and culture. What counts now is not so much like speed, size, computer capacity, but what we do with all this. How do we integrate this infinite abundance into our finite lives.
This development marks the transition from two very different utopias of the internet.We can compare some of these utopias of the internet along different axises. The first axis is disembodied/embodied.
Probably the most famous and one of the first utopias of the internet is John Perry Barlows “Declaration of independence of cyberspace” in which he talks about how our identities no longer have any bodies and how we are leaving the rules and structures of the physical world behind. It was very common during the phase of popularization of the internet to envision this “digital world” where all activities was going to move to in the future. Surely Piratbyrån was guilty of this in the beginning. But then something happened. Cyberspace imploded and the disembodied freedom of a purely digital world that John Perry Barlow expressed has become a reactionary position in the hands of copyright industries dreaming of a perfect digital copyright economy of only licensed use of digital information.
As the interest for these virtual worlds faded, the energies of the net was redirected to social networks which are rather based on all the interfaces between the net and the material everyday life where things happen in a certain place at a certain time and whose major impact is creating connections between these places. This is the web today. Cultural phenomena circulate between the digital and the analog, between accessibility and localization. This event is no exception. It clearly takes place in Mexico City, enabled by connections made through the internet. Some part of the event will be digitized and circulated to be almost universally accessible while others will be hyperlocalized, such as discussions after the symposium forgotten the day after.
This embodied view of the internet could be called the post-digital perspective and features an internet that connect localities, that can intensify physical spaces and coordinate energies to one space at a particular time.
In this view, the internet doesn’t have an effect on culture of its own, but rather having numerous effects on a number of practices. Internet is therefor both less important and more important that depicted by the disembodied perspective. Less important because everything doesn’t move _to_ the internet, but more important because the internet intervenes in many practicies rather than being a separate sphere.
Another axis by which we can compare utopias of the internet is that of global vs. networked. Internet is often depicted as a global network, but I believe that the idea of something global is a massmedia term that has nothing to do with networks. Massmedia always transmits every message to it’s entire range, but while the internet is a connected infrastructure we find all over the world it is a point-to-point medium.
Perhaps the most powerful metaphor for the global net is the one of the cloud. This metaphor claims that we no longer have to worry about where our information lives. Instead of focusing on the complex infrastructure that makes the internet work, we should just put our information in the cloud and trust that somewhere out there, a machine will care for it.
This illusion of a global space can be productive. It can allow us to imagine what we do as potentially connected to other things and make us look for and create these connections, but it also hides the present conditions. Because today, the cloud functions in the complete opposite way to a dislocated, global, fluffy space. Rather the cloud is constituted of data centres, that are very place specific and localized. It is somehow ironic that the biggest decentralization of participation, that anyone can create a blog or upload a video without any advanced skills, has been made possible by the biggest decentralization of information in history into these data centres.
Far from being evenly distributed across the globe, the information in the cloud resides in proprietary and competing clouds not able to communicate with each other. You choose one provider of clouds and then the information is more of less stuck there. The extreme polarization between server and client makes you dependent on trusting the server where the information resides not to be gone tomorrow.
But once upon a time there was another cloud. During the IT-bubble of the 90’s, anyone wanting to get venture capital had to put a cloud somewhere in their presentations. Usually consisting of a few computers at the edges and a big cloud in the middle with the word INTERNET on it. Everything that went up to this cloud was immediately connected to everything else. Only ONE cloud was enough, even though at the time the implementation of this idea was very naive.
Today our computer resources start to approach the point of enabling this other form of cloud. Most of the time, our personal computers contain unused storage and processing cycles with, given enough bandwidth, could be connected in a decentralized way. There is no reason to have personal computers, storage, files and processing power. This kind of cloud also require a change in the material infrastructure of the internet that push it more towards a decentralized network rather than the present distributed one where we are dependent on a handful of obligatory points of passage.
This new cloud would not be an immaterial, always present structure, just floating around in a virtual, global space, but something that would always have to be performed by the millions of distributed computers active in the presence. It would be an emergent property of a production of presence.
So, despite the internet we don’t live in a single global space. Instead communication networks are very narrow networks and tunnels, connecting only specific points and a radius determined by the reach of the sensors of these points. Sometimes it only resonates inside a body, as when someone reads something and immediately forget it. Sometimes not even that, perhaps only the machine registrers the comunication. But sometimes a pice of music for example might be taken to a club and and mutate with the athmosphere and music there and form something new.
That the internet doesn’t create a global space is recognized by the term of the digital divide. It says that different locations have very different access to the internet. But I believe that we have to turn this idea upside down. The idea of the digital divide relies on a negative definition. It states internet as the standard and everyone else a lacking internet.
We should turn the idea of the digital divide upside down. It is not mexico that is lacking (internet), it is mexico that has a plentitude because they don’t have hi-speed internet. Sweden does not have backpack speakers in the subways, because we have internet. Sweden does not have over complicated bureacracy for simple tasks, because we have internet. We don’t have as many internet cafés, because we have broadband and computers at home. So internet here is not seen as a space that you have access to but rather an almost invisible force that reconfigure different situations and rather removes that adds. Sometimes it is good to get rid of things, like hierarchies, obstacles, friction of different kinds. It speeds up things, allows for faster exploration, more efficient organising. But we can also ask ourselves if there is some richness removed by the internet and how that can be reinstalled, such as internet cafés and backpack speakers. Instead of having them as a sign of lack, they becaome the way to spend the plentitude of the digital, even though the rational would be to have everything on the internet.
So what the speed of the internet does is remove some things, or turn them into superefficient instrumental computational tasks so that more time can be available for “the true life”. Let’s not deal with bureacracies or backpack pirates when we can just reduce the obstacles in the way for the actual music. Well, this is a problematic view of culture. That the core of music for example is the actual content and everything around is just obstacles on our way to the access of this content. What if it is the other way around actually, that the content itself is nothing. Just an excuse for all these other things.
We must not understand the digital divide in the sense that there is one global network and everyone that are not connected to it is outside this network. We must view every situation as an assemblage of more or less present communication forms that can be upgraded, forgotten, controlled or distributed. Time and communication is folded! There isn’t a linear development from a non-connected world, crossing the divide into the global digital information society. Rather in every situation there can be more or less interventions by digital communications and the same level of access to the internet can affect different situations in very much different ways.
What I want to say about this is that we should be attentive to the materialities of the network and the situations in which it intervenes and not use the global shortcut of access or not access to the internet. My way of doing this is by the concept of internetzero. This is a term I have stolen, but I use it to mark the territory of greyzones between online or offline. Internet zero is the structure of the impossibility of being completely either on- or offline. What we do and the situations we are in are never local yet never global.
In the internet zero world, everything has a possible, but always unexpected connection to anything else. That is, everything could be connected to everything else, by a combination of analog and digital, slow and fast interfaces, but this connection always has to be performed. This could be as simple as reaching for the keyboard of the internet-enabled computer, but it could also be something as complex are orally stating a message to someone writing it into the village computer as an email and once a day have someone on a motorcycle drive by and collect the emails and ride into the city where the messages are posted to the internet.
I would also claim that we as humans are always located in this territory. We are never entirely away from or entirely immersed in the digital network. The impact of the internet reaches much further than to people with personal access to computers.
InternetZero is chaotic in its precise mathematical meaning because even a minor intervention of a new way of communicating can upset a whole social situation. Chaos theory is about tipping points. It’s not about getting access or not, but how a certain situation is transformed by the internet. So we cannot put a country on a line with a fixed number of steps they have to go through to pass to the other side of the digital divide. We always have to look at transformations of the particular situation.
Calling something global is a complicated form of scaling. It is at the same time rendering something very large and very small. Large, because it assumes something to be immediately present everywhere at the same time. But at the same time small because calling something global is a shortcut that makes sure you don’t have to explain how this phenomenon actually functions and moves through time and space. It is impossible to oppose or change something that is viewed as global.
So the alternative to using the global term is to localize the global and redistribute the local, two terms that comes from Bruno Latour. Localizing the global is about finding the tipping points that is crucial for the functions of the system and localizing the flows that go through them. So things that seem global is actually consisting about networks of localities in which the “global” phenomena is unequally distributed (this is for example true of “the cloud”). But alongside this we also have to distribute the local. All local phenomena are preceded by networks that takes place somewhere else and that have been transported to the current situation and the action that takes place in this local situation are also always transported to other situations. Not immediately and not globally but through the complex networks of internet zero.