[iDC] Thought experiment for Independence Day...

astrid mager astrid.mager at univie.ac.at
Mon Jul 7 08:25:33 UTC 2014

below is my reply to Sam's reply ;)

I also recommend reading Lewandowski's essay on the independent web 
index.. it's in the Society of the Query reader as well:


Lewandowski suggests providing public funding for a public index of the 
web that would enable programmers to build various ranking algorithms 
etc on top of it.. as an alternative to Google's index no one can access 
or work with.. the advantage, in his view, is that a free web index 
would enrich & diversify the search engine landscape since different 
algorithms can be developed using the same index.. concerning funding he 
suggests some sort of transnational European funding structure.. but 
well, that seems tricky..

I wonder what you guys think of this suggestion that seems pretty 
"European" to me.. public funding and stuff.. or am I wrong here?

best, Astrid

-------- Original-Nachricht --------
Betreff: 	Re: [iDC] introduction
Datum: 	Wed, 02 Jul 2014 10:07:59 +0200
Von: 	astrid mager <astrid.mager at univie.ac.at>
An: 	Samuel Tannert <samuel.tannert at gmail.com>

dear Sam,

yeah, I totally agree with you! especially with your last points.. and I 
would even add that's not only the hacker class that's co-opted, but us 
too. don't we use facebook, twitter etc to promote the digital labor 
conference/ ourselves? can we see these activities as an exploitation of 
facebook when we, at the same time,
contribute to facebook's user traffic and hence business model? is it 
feasible/ ethical to organize a facebook exodus via facebook when we 
make people log into facebook to join the group? compared to 
offline-life: would we organize protest in a shopping mall rathen than 
on the streets? these are really difficult questions I'm struggling with 

..concerning DuckDuckGo the questions are similar: is it ethical to make 
use of Bing's web index and results in order to provide a privacy-secure 
service? is the Bing deal a co-option or is it rather a clever move to 
make use (exploit) a tracker to offer users a search engine that does 
not track or filter bubble? (if it's  helping Bing to sustain/ enlarge 
its business at the same time..) - that's something I wanna look into 
more deeply in my next project: what are the ideologies/ imaginaries 
alternative search engines are carrying/ pushing forward? especially 
those hybrids that are offering secure services, while drawing on 
tracking companies.. also, what business models do (can) they develop to 
compete with big search engines in the long run? and, from a European 
perspective: why is it that all successful search engines - and even 
alternative technologies  - are developed in the US? what is wrong with 
European tools? is it the funding structure that is too bureaucratic? 
and, finally, what is the role of the state/ EU in governing corporate 
search engines and their business models - e.g. there's a new data 
protection law under way that is supposed to be binding for all EU 
countries, but there's heavy lobbying from Silicon Valley companies.. 
more industry amendments than ever before in EU legislation - but also 
in supporting/ funding alternatives etc..

ad YaCy: I think its impossible to say how good YaCy is despite the lack 
of critical mass since the number of peers is crucial for the quality of 
the index.. so far, I don't think it's a very useful tool.. but it's an 
intersting one worth to look into in more detail! also, once you 
download it you're contributing to the index yourself, so the index 
develops along your interests more and more over time.. but well, I 
guess it's still a long way to go. but you can try it yourself; they 
have a demo version on their website:


- let me know what you think about it!

I guess that's it for now! I wonder what you think about all this & I'm 
looking forward to continue our discussions in NYC!!! all the best for now,

Am 27.06.2014 21:55, schrieb Samuel Tannert:
> Dear Astrid,
> I read your 2014 publications -- really fascinating stuff! The 
> analysis of alternative search engines was a great challenge to their 
> viability as a counter-hegemonic tactic. Yesterday I would have 
> championed Duck Duck Go, but today the world seems different! Have you 
> used YaCy? Despite the lack of 'critical mass' did you find it 
> reasonably functional?
> I must admit though, I did wonder if your conception of 'punishment' 
> might be an overextension, at least in its framing as an _intentional_ 
> violence. You say, describing Röhle's position,
> >users who try to opt out of Google's data collecting practices by 
> changing default privacy settings, reconfiguring their web browsers, 
> or turning off cookies are punished with less convenient services than 
> cooperating users get. This shows how Google makes ... users play by 
> the rules.
> To me this highlights not how coercive Google is, but rather how 
> willing we are to relinquish our privacy in exchange for efficiency. 
> Without cookies or data-tracking/profiling Google is _unable_ to serve 
> us in the same way it does 'cooperating users'. The data is simply 
> unavailable. This seems to be a major problem with arguments in favor 
> of an exodus, which you highlight in your acknowledgement of the lack 
> of alternatives: if there is nowhere to go then any such response is 
> self-harm (at least in productive terms).
> So maybe this is a good transition into my second question: Who are 
> the traditional and organic intellectuals on today's field of battle?
> Would you consider that today's organic intellectuals are not only 
> Snowden & Assange but also the leviathans of Silicon Valley & the 
> start-up scene at large? If we take Wark's notion of the emerging 
> Vectorialist & Hacker classes seriously, as two separate but related 
> challenges to the dominant Capitalist mode of production, we ought to 
> see organic intellectuals in both camps. What is so troubling, 
> however, is that the Vectorialist class seems able to buy off the 
> leading figures of the Hacker class. Info-should-be-free programmers 
> seem to have a political price of a few million dollars: buy the 
> start-up, change their ideology. (I think Gramsci called this 
> 'molecular absorption.')
> If we accept this analysis of the situtation, as traditional 
> intellectuals we seem to be caught in a weird middleground. We make 
> pragmatic moves upon the old terrain of the Capitalist/Worker paradigm 
> and thus fail to make a meaningful alliance with the very 
> intellectuals from the Hacker class whom we praise.
> Two examples:
> 1) We call for the 'employee' status of Amazon Mechanical Turk 
> workers, that they might be afforded the same protections by the firm 
> as they were in the capitalist mode of production. Yet this merely 
> clings to antiquated notions of the firm & factory! Our real desire is 
> wages & a meaningful standard of living, but we seem to be 
> accidentally promoting what only 50 years ago we sought to destroy.
> 2) We call for a taxi strike against Uber in order to protect the 
> livelihoods & medallion investments of current drivers, but in doing 
> so we fight against an 'information should be free' model and the 
> hacker class at large. Uber is a _great_ hack, but its 
> vectoral-monetization is not. (#NationalizeUber) The Vectorialists 
> definitely won over a fair amount of journalists during the strikes, 
> I guess I just see a dangerous game being played in digital labor 
> theory... One wants to make proposals that can immediately benefit 
> those abused by the new Vectorialist configurations of labor, but all 
> too often that requires seeking the protections won from (read: 
> granted by) the old dominant powers. We say to ourselves, "What were 
> the last 100 years of labor struggle for if we are just going to give 
> up all those gains?" But to retain them is to submit ourselves once 
> again to that domination..
> I think our challenge becomes twofold: How do we cultivate more 
> organic intellectuals from the digital labor demographic? And, more 
> importantly, how do we stop them from being co-opted every time Google 
> opens their wallet? I'm not quite sure.
> Sam
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