[iDC] Introduction: The Internet as Playground and Factory

Michael Bauwens michelsub2003 at yahoo.com
Sun Jun 21 04:20:46 UTC 2009

Hi David,

I agree with you that a lot of online organizing is weak, especially on the sharing as opposed to the peer producing platforms, and they are mostly entertainment oriented.

But in situations of seriousness, such as Iran, which has been extensively discussed here, who would suggest that opponents of the regime should leave the monopoly to the state media, and to not counter such claims by alternative evidence distributed by any means at their disposal as well as a tool for interconnection and mobilization? Of course there is hype, the 'twitter revolution' but the opposite point of view seems equally fruitless.

My point is, the powers that be have had networks for 40 years, and used them to the full extent, and now that broader society has access to it, should we just leave it and not use it, these are tools, important and crucial tools in any struggle, nothing more, nothing less.

At the same time, the fact of using them creates all kinds of new societal logics, new patterns of activity and organizing, which I'm suggesting can be connected, and form the basis of a new overall way of interconnecting such patterns, i.e. the seed of a fundamentally different way of organizing social life.

There is another point I find very important. It is important to be critical and aware, to 'deconstruct', but this only takes us so far. When the Greeks have finished rioting, what is left if no alternatives are constructed that are sustainable and can be interconnected? I think this is something that some in the new generations have well understood, they are far less under the spell of the system that most of their leftist teachers imagine them to be, and interested in constructing new lives and new relationships. Why not accompany them in these efforts and when they encounter the limits of the system, help them realize more quickly that there is indeed a 'beyond' ... and that in the end, only this 'beyond' can really guarantee the success of their aims born in the new structure of desire ...


----- 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: Monday, June 15, 2009 10:20:56 PM
> Subject: Re: [iDC] Introduction: The Internet as Playground and Factory
> Not to keep harping on the same point, but I think the fine
> distinctions are important here.
> I think the examples that you refer to (Linux and P2P foundation), you
> have a high degree of technical competence and a community which tends
> to have a strong social investment in this technology arising in its
> material consequences.  It makes sense that programmers, in the case
> of Linux, who are able to recognize and discern the traces of other's
> labor as manifested in code to their own livelihood, but then to also
> suture those persons that they uncover back into prior social
> experience.   My concern with a lot of the social organizing online is
> that its theory tends to originate in people who have one set of
> relationships to technology, and the bonding not only centers on
> social activity, but on the idea of technology playing a role in
> social activity.  The translocal activity is supported by the
> certainty that the work is likely to produce consequences for people
> who we "know" are real, who depend on our actions, and who are also
> doing things for us.
> On the other hand, many of the weak online social organizations do not
> require the same degree of technical ability.  There is less
> appreciation for technical virtuosity...  and so the level at which
> people are using the technology, deconstructing, and "hacking" it
> (thereby creating their own critical practice) is less probable.
> To revert to talk about an old technology....  my students who read
> and write a lot are more likely to use reading and writing as a means
> of communication.  Furthermore, they are more likely to engage in the
> critical practice of using tradition and innovation.  Currently, I
> don't know that this level of literacy translates over to the web.
> Sure, there people who are able to write in the new form, but for
> most, tech. literacy is really a read-only proposition.  And the sort
> of "multitasking," "short attention span" sort of literacy, while it
> is widely celebrated as the revolutionary new way of being by people
> with a vested interested in it, it also influences the opposition to
> "vested interests".  Everywhere, we hear artists and educators talking
> about this new way of thinking and learning, and the impossibility of
> older forms of social organization...  Which, of course, is a
> self-fulfilling prophecy.  The general result, is a sort of "gamer"
> mentality, which harnesses people's boredom and dissatisfaction, and
> says, well, you can do something about it, utopia is yours to create
> or destroy, and the only cost to you is a little time, concentration,
> and, of course, the pertinent fees.
> I worry that waiting for the next bit of technology or the next
> application is going to lead us where it always has.  It's probably
> passe to reference Ellul, but Ellul's gripe with the "technological
> society" was that we have such abundant faith in technology to release
> people from suffering and injustice without any sacrifice or guilt,
> that we miss the mundane things we can do right now.  In his day, he
> was talking about industrial technologies to, say, solve hunger, even
> as it was possible to feed the world with existing sources of food.
> In our own time, I think the solutions and ambitions of our authentic
> techno-utopians are more modest and incomplete (sometimes, purely,
> intellectual and imaginary)...even as the actual technologies
> (particularly in areas like genetic engineering, RFID, pharmaceutical,
> and, as always, warfare) of the powerful are rather staggering...  I
> find myself going back to Ellul in this regard.  Not to say that
> technology has no place in this equation, but that it should not
> distract from what we can do with our hands, feet, mouths, and minds.
> If we will ever have power to change the world, we have it now.
> Where this type of view might fit with the sort of work that you are
> doing...  is not to discourage it...  but to ground it.  I would hate
> to disparage the earnest efforts of people who are striving to improve
> human life and agency in those areas where they are likely to have the
> most impact.  But success resides in our ability to tie virtual
> actions to real actions, and to avoid the sort of thinking which says,
> "What is real, anyways?  It's all real!"  Because, there is a
> difference between the sophistry which declares something "real" by
> fiat, to prove its own importance, and those symbolic actions which
> are real because they effect people at an existential level.  And the
> baseline measure should not be the existential anxieties of people who
> cannot tell the difference between the world and theory, the baseline
> should be always the hard focus on the fact that through our actions
> or inaction, people are dying, that existence itself is threatened by
> the current trajectory of civilization.
> Peace!
> Davin


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