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SWARMACHINE 

Activist Media Tomorrow*

* BH: When I wrote this text five years ago, it really was not clear whether the swarming tactics of the counter-globalization movement would get a "second chance." But they have, and now the subtitle could be "activist media today."

What happened at the turn of the millennium, when a myriad of recording devices were hooked up to the Internet and the World Wide Web became an electronic prism refracting all the colors of a single anti-capitalist struggle? What kind of movement takes to the barricades with samba bands and videocams, tracing an embodied map through a maze of virtual hyperlinks and actual city streets? The organizational aesthetics of the networked movements was called "tactical media," a concept that mixed the quick-and-dirty appropriation of consumer electronics with the subtle counter-cultural anthropology of Michel de Certeau. The idea was to evoke a new kind of popular subjectivity, constitutionally "under the radar," impossible to identify, constantly shifting with the inventions of digital storytelling and the ruses of open-source practice. Too bad so much of this subversive process was frozen into a single seductive phrase.

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Talking about a Revolution: An Interview with Camille Otrakji 

"If you've been following events in Syria, you'd know that the English-language press is mostly deeply critical of the Assad regime (while the Arabic press displays a slightly wider range of views). I thought it would be worth trying to present a minority report on the situation from a Syrian friend of mine, although, as you will see, he argues precisely that his position is actually held by a very significant majority (albeit a rather quiet and frustrated majority) of Syrians.

Camille Otrakji is a Syrian political blogger based in Montreal. Although he tends to keep a low profile, Otrakji has been, for the past several years, at the forefront of many of the most interesting and influential online initiatives relating to Syrian politics. He is one of the authors and moderators at Joshua Landis's Syria Comment, and the founder of Creative Syria, a constellation of websites including Mideast Image (a vast collection of original old photographs of Middle Eastern subjects) and Syrian Think Tank (an online debate site hosting many of Syria's top analysts). Last year, Otrakji courted controversy with a new initiative devoted to the subject of Syrian-Israeli peace, entitled OneMideast.org. He agreed to speak with me about the latest events in Syria, and I'm sure that his views will generate plenty of discussion."

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Putting the Demo Back in Democracy: March Against the Moguls. 

That guerrilla video is now the subject of historical reflection is probably a sign of its demise. There has been a recent flurry of archival and publishing activity centering on experiments made in the '70s. In 1997, the Chicago-based Video Data Bank released Surveying the First Decade, a compilation of work from the early days of video, and Oxford University Press published Deirdre Boyle's Subject to Change: Guerrilla Television Revisited, the definitive study of the video movements of the late 1960s and '70s. These reflections on the utopian impulse in early video provide an opportunity to think about the present state of media in this country, in particular those movements that have attempted to create electronic space for non-commercial views that run counter to the mainstream.

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Media Darkness 

Reflections on Public Space, Light and Conflict

There is an unshakable belief in the idea that what defines the mass media is that they produce or constitute, in all their different ways, a public. So while there is agreement on the fact that not every public sphere is a communication medium, many people tend to think that every communication medium constitutes a public sphere - the most recent and prominent candidate being, of course, the Internet. But is this claim as to the public quality of all media, hegemonic as it may be today, really tenable?

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Electronic Civil Disobedience, Simulation, and the Public Sphere 

What counts in the long run is the "use" one makes of a theory....We must start from existing practices in order to retrace the fundamental flaws.
--Felix Guattari, "Why Marx and Freud No Longer Disturb Anyone"

In 1994, when Critical Art Ensemble first introduced the idea and a possible model of electronic civil disobedience (ECD) as another option for digital resistance, the collective had no way of knowing what elements would be the most practical, nor did it know what elements would require additional explanation. After nearly five years of field testing of ECD by various groups and individuals, its information gaps have become a little more obvious and can finally be addressed.

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No One is Illegal! Manifesto 

For a world without borders! No immigration controls!

DEFEND THE OUTLAW!

Immigration controls should be abolished. People should not be deemed 'illegal' because they have fallen foul of an increasingly brutal and repressive system of controls. Why is immigration law different from all other law? Under all other laws it is the act that is illegal, but under immigration law it is the person who is illegal. Those subject to immigration control are dehumanized, are reduced to non-persons, are nobodies. They are the modern outlaw. Like their medieval counterpart they exist outside of the law and outside of the law's protection. Opposition to immigration controls requires defending all immigration outlaws.

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    Human rights, testimony, and transnational publicity 

    In the period between the end of the cold war in 1989 and the events of September 11, 2001, human rights became the dominant moral narrative by which world politics was organized. Inspired by the momentous political and cultural transformations taking place at the time, from the fall of the Berlin Wall to the spread of global communications technologies, promoters of human rights discourse optimistically predicted that a transnational public sphere dedicated to democratic values would emerge (We now know, of course, that such predictions were wrong, as early post cold war hopes gave way to the harsh realities of contemporary globalization).

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    A Virtual World is Possible: From Tactical Media to Digital Multitudes 

    I.

    We start with the current strategy debates of the so-called 'anti-globalisation movement', the biggest emerging political force for decades. In Part II we will look into strategies of critical new media culture in the post-speculative phase after dotcommania. Four phases of the global movement are becoming visible, all of which have distinct political, artistic and aesthetic qualities.

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    Dawn of the Organised Networks 

    At first glance the concept of "organised networks" appears oxymoronic. In technical terms, all networks are organised. There are founders, administrators, moderators and active members who all take up roles. Think also back to the early work on cybernetics and the "second order" cybernetics of Bateson and others. Networks consist of mobile relations whose arrangement at any particular time is shaped by the "constitutive outside" of feedback or noise.[1] The order of networks is made up of a continuum of relations governed by interests, passions, affects and pragmatic necessities of different actors. The network of relations is never static, but this is not to be mistaken for some kind of perpetual fluidity. Ephemerality is not a condition to celebrate for those wishing to function as political agents.

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    Syrian Hands Raised: User Generated Creativity Between Citizenship and Dissent 

    As much as images of violence, civil war, and sectarian strife become prominent in the media narrative of the Syrian uprising, little gems of innovative cultural production, artistic resistance, and creative disobedience continue to sprout across the virtual alleys of the Internet. These creative gems are also the germs of a viral peer-production process at work at a grassroots level in the new Syrian public sphere. Such acts of creativity - mash-ups, cartoons, slogans, jokes, songs, and web series - are probably too small and inconsistent in impact compared to the horrific magnificence that shelling, bombing, sniping, and killing scenes that provide daily fodder to global television viewers. It is also challenging to discover them; in fact, as remarked by Tunisian blogger Sami ben Gharbia at the Arab Bloggers meeting in Tunis (3-6 October 2011), Facebook is not the most suitable platform for activists to store, archive, tag, search for content, and give it a context.

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    The Internet Freedom Fallacy and Arab Digital Activism 

    This article focuses on grassroots digital activism in the Arab world and the risks of what seems to be an inevitable collusion with U.S foreign policy and interests. It sums up the most important elements of the conversation I have been having for the last two years with many actors involved in defending online free speech and the use of technology for social and political change. While the main focus is Arab digital activism, I have made sure to include similar concerns raised by activists and online free speech advocates from other parts of the world, such as China, Thailand, and Iran.

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    The Fourth World War 

    The following text is an excerpt from a talk given by Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos to the International Civil Commission of Human Rights Observation in La Realidad, Chiapas on November 20, 1999. The outline for the talk was published in Letters 5.1 and 5.2 in November of the same year, with the titles "Chiapas: the War: 1, Between the Satellite and the Microscope, the Other's Gaze," and 2, "The Machinery of Ethnocide." Any similarity to the conditions of the current war is purely coincidental. Published in Spanish in La Jornada, Tuesday, October 23, 2001.

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