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Re: <nettime> The Tactics of Camping / tactical abandonment of the media
Eric Kluitenberg on Tue, 28 Jun 2011 13:58:46 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> The Tactics of Camping / tactical abandonment of the media apparatuses (disconnectivity)

Dear Helge, et. all,

My apologies for being so slow in reacting to your accurate observations - I'm working on something more extensive and didn't find the right moment to react till now.

On Jun 21, 2011, at 13:13, Helge Peters wrote:
> Just some thoughts of mine. Writing about Syria, you state that
> "Visibility here means not just empowerment, but also vulnerability, becoming a discrete, identified, and localised target."
> But isn't this also true in Europe? Isn't the problem you describe here relevant to almost all media activism, or mediatized activism for that matter?

Yes of course - all media activism, al public manifestations of dissent, carry within them this double nature of becoming visible and deriving (em)power(ment) from this visibility and at the same time becoming vulnerable because of this increased visibility - often simultaneously. However, what is quite distinctive in this particular situation is the curious shift of visibility that happens when activist move out of the social networking sphere and back to the streets and squares: in the social networking spheres they are primarily visible and identifiable as individuals because of the nature of the medium, the personal profiles and so on that have to have some degree of authenticity to be trusted by anyone, whereas on the streets and squares the activists are no longer primarily identified as individuals, but much rather as a group, a crowd or better yet a 'public'.

I find this curious transformation fascinating: how do activists and their supporters become a 'public' - how would the theoretical apparatus of studying and framing the notion of 'the public' come to bear on these processes? Does becoming a public create safety or at least a measure of protection for the individual (who is so hyper-vulnerable in the singular identification of the social networking space)?
The Syrian experience, particularly the great number of people who have died in the protests, suggest that this move to the streets and what I called dissolving in the public, is certainly not without risk.
But is it less risky than the singular identification in the social networking space?

I have no answers to these questions, but they seem highly pertinent to me.

The second point deals with the question of hybridisation of media and activist strategies in the increasing densities / thickness of hybrid space.

> I believe it was Knowbotic Research who recently said that today visibility increasingly means administrative availability. Increasing the visibility of a given cause and the people associated with it feeds back into the cybernetic loop that allows the governmental machine to identify, classify and react accordingly in order to perpetuate itself, be it with soft or hard power. I think that this is also the problem that Tiqqun tentatively tried to address with their concept of zones of offensive opacity and that Deleuze talked about in an interview with Toni Negri roughly two decades ago, where he wondered if resistance today might have to take the form of creating vacuoles of non-communication.
> In other words, what happens now between the people in the camps in Spain and Greece, their experimenting with alternative social relations, their unlearning of representative politics through slow and painful discussion facilitation processes, might just be more important than what happens on the net, or even the public statements that will inevitably come out of this. At least if one is interested not in the next hectic mobilization for this or that cause, but in the long term goal of envisioning a world beyond Empire. This may sound a bit luddite-ish, but in an age of ubiquitous media apparatuses we might as well have to learn how to tactically abandon them. Not just in oppressive regimes, but everywhere.

Excellent point - 'tactically abandoning the ubiquitous media apparatuses'. I think this was very much on my mind when I started a discussion with artists and theorist, years ago about the notion of disconnectivity, or the right to disconnect. Our idea was to enshrine the right to disconnect as a fundamental human right, that we should retain the right to disconnect at will from all media flows, essentially from traceability in any form. This would then become a last stronghold perhaps of some form of autonomy.

Now it is easy to see how authorities absolutely would not support such an idea, ever. As CAE has observed, authorities have from the dawn of civilisation kept and maintained records of their underlings, constructing data bodies, as a means of exercising control / power over them.

This problem has become even more pertinent with the rapid proliferation of wireless technologies of various kind (cell phones, wireless data networks, rfid and the lot), in other words as the density or thickness of hybrid space increases so does the traceability - and disconnectivity becomes increasingly difficult, if not completely impossible. This is both a technological and a political question.

In 2006 I asked Howard Rheingold to think along about this problem, at a time when I was still proud not to have and never to have owned a mobile phone (now I have an iphone - it became in a way inescapable to give up my luddite-ish wireless stance). Howard was completely surprised about this suggestions (and I was surprised about his surprise) - he wrote me back that for over 30 years he had thought about questions how to make people and things connect, and never really seriously engaged in the question how to make things (and people) disconnect. We then wrote an entertaining and I still think relevant essay for the theme issue on Hybrid Space I referenced in the blog post, which can be found on-line (links bellow). It's called "Mindful Disconnection - Counterpowering the Panopticon from the Inside".

Open 12 Hybrid Space (the whole issue): 

Direct link to the text (pdf file):

The Syrian experience (and elsewhere) to me seems a case in point as to why it is so important to question (and strengthen) the possibilities for disconnectivity.

Thanks again for raising these points, and sorry for my delayed response.


> Also, my first post on nettime. Hi all!
> Helge
> Am 20.06.2011 um 16:09 schrieb Eric Kluitenberg:
>> dear nettimers,
>> I just posted this short text on the newTactical Media Files blog, a first attempt to reflect on the remarkable street protests (the 'movement of the squares') from Tahrir to Puerta del Sol, from Tunis  > to Athens and beyond. It seems slowly possible to start taking this discussion a bit further than the necessary mobilisation statements witnessed so far.
> <...> http://blog.tacticalmediafiles.net/?p=106

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