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InternetNoll i Mexico: Del två – Motorvägen

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Mexico är ett bilälskande land. Mexico City är en av världens mest avgasade städer där tiofiliga motorvägar i tre nivåer korsar rakt igenom stadskärnan. Landsbygden är än mer bil- och lastbildsdominerad. En gång i tiden fanns det en järnväg men den slutade fungera så nu används den inte, även om man kör över järnvägsspår lite då och då. Mexico är bilfanatiskt som USA fast helt klart mer low-end.
Detta skapar en hel del hemska upplevelser, så som en nio timmars resa i 35+ värme tillbaks till staden efter ett besök i Catemacos djungel som innefattar skräpiga vägar som skickar metallföremål in i däcket med punka och åtlöje bland mexikanska truckers för att man inte kan byta hjul (tur att de inte fick reda på att jag inte ens kan köra en bil) som följd, två timmars skräckresa genom kurviga dimtäckta berg med max 20 meters sikt och feta lastbilar som blåser förbi i 80 knyck och en fem-filig motorväg mitt i nattens trötta ögon som tvingas avbrytas och som slutar på ett prostitutionsmotell som hyrs ut per timme med enbart porr på TVn, kondom och två halstabletter på nattduksbordet, plastöverkast och en automat med servetter bredvid sängen. Ja, jag är rätt traumatiserad.
Men på grund av Mexicos oerhörda förmåga att skapa superfunktionalitet på den distribuerade mikronivån så ger motorvägen också utrymme till en hel del hacking, informella strukturer och gatuinnovation.

// Motorvägssamhällen
Eftersom mexikanska bilar och vägar är så skruttiga så måste de stanna ofta. Runt stopp eller nedsaktningar växer det fram massvis med samhällen längs motorvägen. Dessa återfinns ofta mellan två väghinder – topes. Jag vet inte vad som kom först. Kanske skapades en mekaniker som gjorde att bilarna stannade där och som fick följden att någon började sälja färskpressad juice, som ledde till etablerandet av en taco-restaurang som till slut ledde till att man tvingades installera topes på vägen eftersom det var för mycket folk som korsade vägen till fots. Eller var det tvärtom? Kanske installerade något först topen med hundra meters mellanrum av oklara anledningar. Någon passade då på att sälja juice och tamales till de långsamt framkrypande bilarna. Eftersom topes ofta är höga så slet de på däcken och det var vanligt att bilar gick sönder, så en rullande mekaniker installerade sig permanent här. På det följde sen försäljningen av falska aztek-souvenirer och samhället var komplett.

Underliga är dem i varje fall. Ofta placerade mitt i ingenstans på en icke-plats som bara definieras av att den här motorvägen drogs precis där.

// Talacheros
En vanlig syn i motorvägssamhällena precis som i storstäderna är ett stort däck där någon målat “Talachas” med vita bokstäver. Talachas är ett slags diversearbete, ett temporärt fix som i en och samma roll kombinerar bilmekaniker, snickare, rörmokare och annat krimskrams. En slags skrotnisse. Talacheros håller till i skjul-turned-skrotupplag och hit kan man gå med alla typer av fixarproblem. Talacheros gör inga certifierade jobb direkt men din bil kommer att hålla till nästa servicestation och din spis fungera tills den nya anländer. Det är billigt, snabbt och väldigt hacker-aktigt. Talacheros får mycket av sitt skrot från tilicheros som är de som går runt i områden med en vagn med en klocka på och ropar ut att de vill ha gamla spisar, elektronikskrot och reservdelar. De användbara fynden sälja sedan till talacheros och jag gissar at det förekommer en del utvinning av råmaterial också, så som koppar. Vissa på nätet översätter det med peddler som väl skulle bli nasare på svenska, men det är ju en inverterad process. De samlar upp skräp, inte säljer det.

Jag gillar talachas väldigt mycket. Deras verkstäder ser fantastiska ut. Som hackerspaces fast mer grov utrustning (knappast mikrokontrollers). Hela ekosystemet med tilicheros och talachas utökar sfären mellan kasserad produkt och skräp. Det finns en hel värld emellan dessa två tillstånd där material, delar och objekt återvänder in i det användbaras kretslopp flera gånger om. En verklighetens sub-domän som inte syns i det raster där bara fungerande objekt och trasigt skrot finns. Jag kommer att tänka på Jane Bennetts bok “vibrant matter” som jag läser just nu. Hon vill skapa en filosofisk förståelse för ting och kraften i ting som hela tiden överskrider människans användning och perspektiv på dem som objekt för instrumentellt användande. Talachas har en speciell förmåga att upptäcka denna “thing-power” som Bennett talar om i vad som för andra enbart skulle vara död materia.

Det är ett hackerperspektiv på materian och tingen. Att se vilka krafter som kan frammanas om ett visst ting kopplas samman med andra ting genom olika metoder. Att se det här tingets nya plats i ett annat livskraftigt system än det som det kasserades ifrån. Att se något som skräp och skrot är att ge upp. Att inte ha förmågan att upptäcka vilka krafter som kan ligga i en ny sammansättning. Att tänka att en ting eller en bit materia omöjligen skulle kunna sammankopplas på nytt.


//

Väggmålningar annonserar sonideros – band/ljudsystem och häxkonster – brujos – från Catemaco.


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May 15th, 2010 at 11:50 pm

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InternetNoll i Mexico: Del ett – Tepito

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mexico_5_1

Igår besökte jag den beryktade marknaden Tepito. Den är stor som en mindre stad. Kvarter efter kvarter efter kvarter med marknadsstånd. En del inomhus andra längs gatorna. Vissa kvarter är strukturerade efter tema (som det bisarra lejserbröllopskvarteret) andra väldigt random. Tepito har också tunnlar under marknaden där det ryktas om att VIP-området finns för de riktigt goa grejerna, men det fungerar också som lager och tillflyktsort ifall en polisräd skulle ske. Tydligen kan Tepitos marknad försvinna och återuppstå i förbluffande hastighet. Kolla på den här filmen om hur tomt det ser ut när Google är på besök.


Tepito har varit marknad i flera hundra år, redan innan spanjorerna kom till Mexico. Gissningsvis för att det låg geografiskt bra nära en sjö på den tiden Mexico City såg ut som Venedig med kanaler genom hela staden och därmed blev ett naturligt stopp för varornas flöde in mot staden. Med den långa marknadstraditionen har också en ruffighet kommit och stadsdelen har varit fattig och känd för kriminalitet lika länge som marknaden existerar. Kapade lastbilar med varor körs till Tepito, lastas ur på en halvtimme och försvinner sedan spårlöst. 300 personrån anmäls också i stadsdelen varje år, men det slår mig som en rätt låg siffra för en mer eller mindre laglös stadsdel. Tillsammans med detta kommer dock även en speciell stolt livlighet med musik, barer, skringstrosande och märkliga möten som intresserat konstnärer, musker, filmare, sociologer, antropologer och journalister länge. En vanlig fras bland de boende är “ser mexicano es un privilegio, pero ser de Tepito es un don de Dios” – “Att vara Mexikan är ett privilegium, men att vara från Tepito är en gåva från Gud”. Det är heller inte helt och hållet en gangsterstyrd värld, även om pengarna såklart flyter upp till Narcos i slutändan, om man bara är cool och respekterar Tepitos egna regler så känns det lugnt att vistas där. Eftersom staten inte lägger sig i angelägenheterna så finns en mängd informella, förtroendebaserade sammanslutningar som sköter allt istället. Den här sociala modellen har tydligen spridits till andra områden också, men jag har inte studerat det tillräckligt för att kunna säga något om det. Det finns mer info på wikipedia om Tepito som faktiskt är riktigt bra.

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Tepitos skyddshelgon: Santa Muerte med bling-bling.

Utbudet i Tepito var mer strukturerat än jag hade förväntat mig. Det är inte direkt högar med gammalt, använt skräp som säljs (även om det finns också) utan Tepito domineras av nya varor till låga priser; glasögon, skor, musik, film, konsumentelektronik, och kopior på märkesvaror såklart. Ursprunget till detta är en omlokalisering av en annan marknad hit i början av 1900-talet. Innan dess bestod Tepito mest av andrahandsvaror. Piratkopiorna, som nu mest kommer fårn Kina kom på 70-talet. Tepitos historia har fortsatt vara turbulent med inflöde av nya grupper av människor, försök från politiker att rensa upp och inte minst inverkan från 1984 års jordbävning som ödelade de flesta hus från 16- och 1700-tal. Tepito är också storfinansiär av lokal politik. Staden tar ut avgift från säljarna för att ignorera den illegala aktiviteten och när det är dags för valkampanjer ökar den avgiften från ungefär 30 pesos per vecka till hundra pesos (5 euro) per dag. Tänk då att det finns ungefär en halv miljon säljare i Tepito så hajjar ni att det rör sig om en del pengar.

Bland 90% varumärkesskräp finns nischade stånd, inte minst för musik. Det är hit man går för sin senaste Cumbia eller bortglömda Bolero. Till legendariska varor till försäljning i Tepito hör tigrar, myndighetsdatabaser och begagnade begravningskistor. Det sägs att allt utom värdighet går att köpa i Tepito och ett stånd vi passerade hade en väldigt passande slogan: “If we don’t have it, we get it, and if we can’t we invent it”. Tycker det är en passande slogan för internet, eller hur?

För visst finns det många likheter mellan nätet och marknaden. Jag identifierade tre:

  1. Prismodell a’la App-store. 20 pesos är Tepitos 99 cents. En dvd, ett glas juice, underkläder, tamales, diverse krimskrams. Allt är 20 pesos. Det är det standardiserade baspriset som gör den allra minsta handeln väldigt enkel. Vid större kvantiteter och flashigare grejer tillkommer såklart prutningar och blåsningar (som “guerito” höll jag knäpptyst medan min Mexicanska flickvän förhandlade priset)
  2. Avsaknad av index. Samma känsla som på internet. Det finns så mycket, så även om allt verkar vara skräp så ger det känslan av att den perfekta grejen finns lite längre bort. Och hittas den inte beror det på att man letat för dåligt, inte att den inte finns. Det finns ingen överblick över Tepito, inget index, ingen sökmotor. Samtidigt är det just den här browsing-känslan som gör Tepito så speciellt. Att vada genom all den här aktiviteten och upptäcka bisarra prylar man inte visste existerade. Mitt google var min flickvän som hade bra koll på området, men såklart inte heltäckande.
  3. Rickrolling. Jo, vi blev rickrollade i Tepito. Någon började blasta Never Gonna Give You Up precis när vi passerade :) Men generellt så kändes känslan av random lulz som bara uppkommer i oorganiserade, distribuerade nätverk väldigt bekant.


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May 9th, 2010 at 1:42 am

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Mexikansk datalagring gone wrong

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När riksdagsvalet närmar sig och datalagringsdirektivet (förhoppningsvis) kommer att bli en het fråga kan det vara värt att bli påmind om hur jävla illa det kan gå med datalagringar. För att få ett färskt exempel på det kan vi vända oss till Mexico och deras regerings senaste hastigt införda lag.

Lagen RENAUT, som är ett led i kriget mot droghandeln, föreskriver att alla som har ett mobilnummer, kontaktkort eller abonnemang, ska registrera sig på det med (häng med nu); namn, adress, personnummer, fingeravtryck och retinascan. Gör man inte det kommer mobilnumret att stängas av. Tanken var att komma åt narcos som gör affärer via mobiltelefonerna, men allvarligt talat, i ett land där narkotikakungarna är rikare än staten och hälften lever under fattigdomsgränsen måste man vara korkad för att inte förstå att de kan betala någon hungrig stackare för att registera sig på deras kontaktkort. Mycket riktigt gick det att köpa falskregistrerade kontantkort i piratmarknaden Tepito redan innan dealinen på registeringen var klar. Så gick det med den lagen.

Men vänta. Det blir ännu bättre…

30 miljoner (!) mobilinnehavare registerade sig inte. Deras telefoner stängdes av i ett svep. Mobiltelefoner som framförallt för den fattiga delen av befolkningen är den enda formen av konnektivitet som existerar. En förutsättning för att kunna sköta vardagen och affärer. Men här protesterade telekombolaget och drog lagen inför domstol. Det återstår ännu att se vad som händer med den. Så vitt jag förstår det är de påkopplade igen.

Databasen då? Den som ändå lyckades samla 50 miljoner namn, personnummer och fingeravtryck. Jo, den gick att köpa i Tepito en vecka efter lagen trätt i kraft. (UPPDATERING: Den länkade artikeln handlar om andra myndighetsdatabaser till salu. Se kommentar nedan). För 12000 dollar. Hela databasen. På tre externa hårddiskar á 160 gb. Vilka som köpte den? Den här artikeln berättar den otroliga historien om att ett antal polisdistrikt gått ihop och skramlat fram pengar till att själva köpa regeringens databas.
- Det blir så mycket enklare att kolla uppgifter om man inte måste gå via den officiella byråkratin, kommenterade en anonm polisman. Man storknar!

Kritik som vi har mot datalagring här i Sverige har redan hänt i Mexico på ett sätt som verkligen tydliggör vilka skador de kan göra. Det som exponeras tydligt hela tiden i en misslyckad stat som Mexico riskerar att dyka upp även inom Sverige om så bara som undantag. Databaser som läcker är dock en irreversibel handling. Det går inte att stoppa tillbaka dem sen.

Kritiken mot datalagring består inte bara av hypotetiska scenarion utan verklighet i andra länder!

Nog för att vi inte har en piratmarknad av det här slaget i Sverige, men samma händelser som sker i Mexico kan hända här fast på ett annat sätt. Att målvakter och andra sätt att kringå datalagringen används av de som den verkligen är till för att sätta dit är ju inte svårt att tänka sig. Och hur osannolokt är det egentligen att uppgifter från databaser med personuppgifter slinker ut genom personliga kontakter till någon som egentligen inte skulle ha tillgång till dem snarare än den officiella vägen med insyn?

Det händer mycket med Mexikos informationsinfrastruktur just nu. Det är monopol som bryts och förstärks, ACTA-samtal som blivit heta politiska potatisar och allting hamnar mitt i det fruktansvärda kriget mot droger som skördar dödsoffer varje dag (fler dör i det än i kriget i irak). Jag åker själv till Mexico imorgon och hoppas kunna rapportera vidare, bland annat från besöket i Tepito.

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April 29th, 2010 at 12:39 pm

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Narcofuturism

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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…

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October 14th, 2009 at 1:02 pm

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Transitio Clinic

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(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.

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October 11th, 2009 at 12:00 am

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Transitio symposium

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(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.

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October 8th, 2009 at 9:30 pm

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Från nätverkets utkant

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Geraldine kallar tillståndet i Mexico City för “Sub-future” och förutspår att resten av världen snart kommer befinna sig i samma tillstånd. Det vill säga att ingenting fungerar, allt är ett mega-kaos, men ändå klarar sig uppenbarligen staden genom något oförklarlig emergent självorganisering. Detta är “the edge of the network” – all komplexitet finner du utkanten av nätverket.

Det här landet ägs av världens rikaste man, Carlos Slim (pimpnamn, no?) som äger allt “fom bread to buildings” (jo, folk köper ruskgt mycket bröd här). Carlos äger dessutom telefonledningar, mobilmarknaden och internet. Ett totalt kommunikationsmonopol vilket bland annat leder till att Mexico i absoluta tal har bland den högsta kostnaden för internetuppkopplingar och bisarra fenomen som “the five o’clock cap” som sänker hastigheten på nätet efter klockan fem.

Stan svämmar över av en slags lo-tech/hi-tech. Ta till exempel försäljarna av pirat-dvd i tunnelbanan. De är utrustade med ryggsäckar med inbyggda högtalare som krämar ut hög musik samt portabla videoskärmar med vilka de går runt bland resenärerna och visar klipp från de hetaste filmerna. De här ryggsäckarna med högtalarna går att köpa som kit på en viss marknad som jag kommer att besöka i veckan.

Tunnelbanan överhuvudtaget är en speciell upplevelse. En resa kostar 2 pesos (1 krona, typ) vilket är löjligt billigt även med mexikanska mått. Efter klockan fem är de första 3 vagnarna på varje tåg reserverade enbart för kvinnor, pensionärer och transexuella. Tydligen en nödvändighet på grund av alla trakasserier som annars förekommer i de fullsmokade vagnarna.

Igår deltog jag i ett symposium på konstfestivalen transitio_mx. Mitt anförande berörde spänningarna mellan idén om det globala molnet och konceptet internetNoll. Det togs emot väldigt bra, vilket jag tror har att göra med att internetnoll är ett begrepp som ligger nära den mexikanska verkligheten. Det kommer upp en video snart och jag ska renskriva så jag kan posta det här på bloggen. Det finns så mycket mer att skriva om från den här fantastiska staden så framtida inlägg kommer troligtvis att handla om panda-maoister, mescal, 200 år gamla falskpressar, tapirer som matas med tacos och den mexikanska bögporrfilmen “Mexican Corruption”.

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October 3rd, 2009 at 4:47 pm

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Teorias Del Caos

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Just did a performance/speech on Bambuser together with the picnic “Teorias Del Caos” in Mexico City. The topic was “The internet is chaos, well so is capital”.

It’s divided in two broadcasts because their power went out in the middle and I had to redo some parts. I skipped some parts because my voice went bad, but I’ll write them up on the blog later together with the rest.

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June 27th, 2009 at 9:33 pm

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Smitta, geometri, information – om svinfluensan

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Har för tillfället Manuel Delandas “A Thousand Years of Non-linear History” på nattduksbordet. Boken beskriver människans icke-mänskliga historia de senaste tusen åren i tre kapitel; flöden och försteningar av materia och energi, kött och gener samt språk och memer.

Idag kan jag inte låta bli att tänka på hur väl en sådan analys passar  på vad som händer i Mexico City med svinfluensan där alla dessa flöden och försteningar samverkar. Det är inte bara ett virologiskt problem utan lika mycket ett landskaps- och informationsproblem.

Kopimisten Geraldine sitter mer eller mindre i husarrest i en stad som lamslagits lika mycket av virusets okontrollerade spridning som av informationens.

Från hennes twitter:

EPIMEDIA viral collective hysteria produced & fed by media whores and irresponsible citizens with “private” “reliable” sources.

Twitters förmåga till desinformation i realtidshändelser som denna har redan dokumenterats. Detta är något annat än Twitters roll i terrorattackerna i Mumbai där det egentligen handlade om att trejsa en koncentrerad händelse. I Mexico City involveras allt från uppgifter om smittade, rekommendationer för åtgärder och rörelsemönster. Myndigheterna får svårt att nå ut i den realtid som krävs för att inte bara informera i efterhand utan styra flödena av kroppar och mikroorganismer. Här finns artikel om hur internet används för officiell information.

Uppdatering: Guardian samlar rådata.

//

På IRC sent inatt…

04:05:35      Geraldine |  i know it sounds exagerated
04:05:52      Geraldine |  but is really weird in here.. and not. some places
are desserted others packed.

Virusets flöden och informationens flöden är båda katalysatorer för dessa förflyttningar av populationer och ommöbleringen av den urbana syntaxen. Vilka beteendemönster, smittor och sorteringar skapas av makroåtgärder som att stänga skolor och biografer, men ha köpcentra öppna eller mikroåtgärder som när WHO rekommenderar att man ska hålla sig minst en meter ifrån andra människor? Spridningen och begränsningen av viruset är också lika beroende av de förflyttningar, isoleringar eller koncentreringar som en mutering av informationslandskapet kan åstadkomma som någon egenskap hos själva virussmittan.

Jag citerar i helhet punkt ett från BLDBLOG:s tio tankar om svinfluensan och medicinska utopier:

1) In his under-appreciated novel Super-Cannes, easily amongst his best, J.G. Ballard explored the psychological, sexual, and even epidemiological implications of landscape design. This is “the secret life of the business park,” Ballard writes.
At one point the book’s narrator is speaking with the corporate director of Eden-Olympia, a planned live/work community in southern France. The director somewhat off-handedly refers to medical research that the narrator’s own wife, a doctor, has been performing: “She’s running a new computer model,” the director says, “tracing the spread of nasal viruses across Eden-Olympia. She has a hunch that if people moved their chairs a further eighteen inches apart they’d stop the infectious vectors in their tracks.”
Perfectly calibrated down to the inch – or perhaps the millimeter – modern space itself becomes a kind of medical regime, its bare white rooms an antiviral treatment that we mistake for interior design.
Just as our city streets are wide enough to accommodate the turning radius of a specific class of passenger vehicle, our office cubicles, kindergarten playrooms, courts of law, and university lecture halls could be measured against the infectious vectors of specific pathogens.
In the geometry of objects around us are the outer infectious edges of diseases we no longer suffer from; we have literally designed them out of modern space, denying their ability to spread.

Alltså, vilka arkitektoriska och informationella landskap formas av smittor och ett smittologiskt tänkande? Vad är relationen mellan en stad där ingen blir sjuk (eller en gräns vilken ingen smitta korsar) och en stad där inga tankesmittor sprids?

Ps. För mer smittologi rekommenderas Steven Johnsons Ghost map om kolerasociogram. Här i föredrag på TED. Ds.

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April 27th, 2009 at 10:14 am

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