[iDC] Introduction: The Internet as Playground and Factory

Michael Bauwens michelsub2003 at yahoo.com
Mon Jun 15 13:49:27 UTC 2009

Hi Davin,

there is indeed a strong dialectic between the offline and online contacts, but I would insist that the internet has enabled a whole new layer of affinity based translocal organizing, which was perhaps possible before, but at a much higher 'treshold' cost, necessitating strong organizations which took years to build ...

In the case of the p2p foundation, definitely the online came first, and on top of that, a community is being slowly formed, people are meeting each other, etc ... It seems Linux started in the same way, first by an online appeal, then by building a movement with people who would eventually meet ...


----- Original Message ----
> From: davin heckman <davinheckman at gmail.com>
> To: Michael Bauwens <michelsub2003 at yahoo.com>
> Cc: "idc at mailman.thing.net" <idc at mailman.thing.net>
> Sent: Sunday, June 14, 2009 1:14:14 AM
> Subject: Re: [iDC] Introduction: The Internet as Playground and Factory
> I agree with you, actually.  (Which is why I am on this list.  I do
> not know any of the people face to face, but I do feel a strong sense
> of affection and solidarity, especially when exchanges get personal
> and force us to be present, responsible, and accountable to each
> other).
> I think, however, that the prerequisite for strong online organization
> is successful experience to some physical experience.  I am skeptical
> about the idea online activism could precede "live" activism.  A
> large, diverse, and successful political action is a very hard thing
> to pull off....  and the rewards are often realized in subtle ways...
> especially if you "lose."  The sense of danger, the feelings of
> dependence, the way in which individual limitations are transcended
> through solidarity, and how disappointments lead to other positives.
> But through all this you learn how to be an activist.  It changes who
> you are, becomes a part of your being.  (And in a small community,
> especially, it marks you as a particular kind of person, which has its
> downsides, but also ups the ante in a good way.)  And, then you kind
> of have to seek other people out and connect with them....  which is
> where, I think, social media comes in.
> Peace!
> Davin
> On Fri, Jun 12, 2009 at 10:59 PM, Michael
> Bauwens wrote:
> >
> >
> >
> >
> > Hi David,
> >
> > I'm very sympathetic to your point of view, rooted in struggle and real life 
> experience, and indeed, social media is no panacea.
> >
> > However, it seems your example is rooted in local organizing, but what about 
> the translocal.
> >
> > I wouldn't want to overstate the community aspects of my own work at the P2P 
> Foundation, but I see it as a forum for serious discourse and exchange, aimed at 
> 'changing the world', and I have enough anecdotal evidence, emails sent by many 
> people, to indicate that is has sustained hope and strength in many different 
> people.
> >
> > So, actually, in the end, I do not agree, discouraging people from using 
> social media is pretty much like discouraging people from using TV, it won't 
> work, because it offers too many benefits. So I would rather say, go with the 
> use (no use to push people at all, they are all doing it by themselves anyway), 
> but try to change that use, by infusing consciousness, a sense of the possible, 
> and a sense that new futures can be co-constructed, both f2f and through social 
> media.
> >
> > But indeed, I also object to just "playing around", signing petitions that 
> have no effect at all, etc...
> >
> > There is I think something in between the two positions,
> >
> > Michel
> >
> >
> > ----- Original Message ----
> >> From: davin heckman 
> >> To: "idc at mailman.thing.net" 
> >> Sent: Monday, June 8, 2009 10:47:52 PM
> >> Subject: Re: [iDC] Introduction: The Internet as Playground and Factory
> >>
> >> I was at a barbecue about a week ago, chatting with my brother-in-law,
> >> who's a labor organizer.  He's less concerned with swelling the ranks
> >> of a particular union than he is with talking to working people about
> >> how they can, by talking with each other, improve their situation.
> >>
> >> As a teacher, I was interested in picking his brain on how I could use
> >> some of his work to help my students talk about their lives, formulate
> >> their responses, and organize themselves around issues that matter to
> >> them.  Naturally, the talk turned to social media as a possibility and
> >> an obstacle for such organization.
> >>
> >> His advice to me, based on anecdotal evidence, was to advise students
> >> against using social media for organizing until they had strong
> >> face-to-face relationships.  And then, only use it sparingly, as a
> >> tool.  His experience, based on work with 20-50 year old working folks
> >> was that attitudes quickly devolve into patterns consistent with the
> >> consumption of entertainment--you do it when you have time, when it is
> >> fun, and with the multitude of available channels of information it is
> >> too easy to avoid bare-knuckle conflicts (even when exchanges become
> >> hot).  In his view, the contexts which require organizing the most are
> >> those which are going to be risky--where you might lose your job, face
> >> retaliation, and, in some cases, get beaten.  And so, you need a tight
> >> social relationship in which people are willing to sacrifice for each
> >> other.  His efforts at organizing online were weak...  they generated
> >> good talk among those who participated...  but they did not translate
> >> into a strong group, unless the group was rooted in face-to-face
> >> relationships.
> >>
> >> The view he articulated to me was basically the one that I had been
> >> moving more closely to over the years--watching students organize an
> >> organization with 200 members on facebook, and then showing up to an
> >> empty meeting.  On the other hand, groups with no online presence can
> >> have very active meetings.  Part of me wonders if there is a divide
> >> between social media use in large metropolitan areas, where there are
> >> lots of things going on... versus life in smaller cities and towns,
> >> where people have more limited activities to choose from and less
> >> money to spend on entertainment.  Maybe in big cities or among certain
> >> demographic groups, social media "works" better.  Where I live and
> >> teach, it tends to fall flat.  If I want someone to help out with
> >> something, I have to put in face-to-face time.  I've lived in places
> >> where you could choose from several Critical Mass bike rides to
> >> attend...  but then there are huge swaths of territory where people
> >> say, "Critical Mass?  What's that?"  And then, when you explain, they
> >> say, "Why would you want to do that?"
> >>
> >> To finally get to my point, and I'm not trying to say there is
> >> anything wrong with Web 2.0 stuff, but I do think in terms of social
> >> potential it requires the user to approach it with a certain set of
> >> priorities, a certain consciousness, and a learned orientation.  IF
> >> the learned orientation is geared towards a rudimentary form of
> >> consumption, the space is going to be filled with similar priorities,
> >> perhaps with a bit more detail and elaboration.  But it does not
> >> inevitably lead towards anything utopian, except in the kind of
> >> watered-down neoliberal sense where we call fun "utopia."  On the
> >> other hand, if people habitually have robust relationships that are
> >> tied to consequence, they are more likely to place those expectations
> >> onto any medium that they are invested in.  Even if consumers become
> >> "green consumers" or "hipsters" (or whatever the thing to do is)...
> >> as long as "the good" is framed primarily as an enlightened approach
> >> to individual consumer choices...  it will be hard to respond to
> >> employers and corporations who coordinate their decision-making in an
> >> integrated way, facilitated by market research, lobbying, finance,
> >> etc.
> >>
> >> In general, contemporary critical theory is frightened of tackling
> >> concepts like guilt, sacrifice, duty, responsibility, etc.  Such
> >> concepts are toxic to neoliberalism (except in those cases when they
> >> can be exploited, like when neglected children learn to nag their
> >> overworked parents into buying shit to make up for their absence), and
> >> consequently, generations of people are afraid of these feelings.
> >> But, if social media is going to work, it needs to be able to carry
> >> consequences in proportion to risks.  If they are going to translate
> >> into material effects, the virtual actions must be tied to embodied
> >> responses.
> >>
> >> How do we do this?  Well...  my brother-in-law does a great job
> >> organizing people.  Educators have an opportunity to connect students
> >> to this reality.  And, artists can do this in their work.
> >> Unfortunately, there aren't enough organizers, artists, and educators
> >> doing this.  It requires active effort and hard work by people who are
> >> conscious of the problem.  More importantly, we need to imagine an
> >> entire education which is geared towards fostering an ethical view
> >> that is capable of seeing systems of power beyond individual
> >> decisions.
> >>
> >> If the Internet is a factory, then maybe we should follow the model of
> >> past efforts of successful organizing....  And this usually takes
> >> place when the workers are off the clock, when they can have candid
> >> discussions, and when they can get to know each other personally and
> >> intimately.  Especially in the case of the web, where people can get
> >> so caught up in posturing and image-management, it might be doubly
> >> powerful to be cared for and accepted in the flesh, where we feel a
> >> little flabbier and look a bit more blemished, where there is no
> >> backspace to filter out a personality flaw.
> >>
> >> Peace!
> >>
> >> Davin Heckman
> >>
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