micz flor on Tue, 7 Jul 1998 18:17:37 +0200 (MET DST)

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<nettime> The Revolution Shall Not Be Criticised?


               Micz Flor, Manchester 07/98

Let's be realistic! A blockbuster electronic arts event-slash-
symposium called Revolution is unrealistic (link #isea98). Still, it is 
anything but unexpected. Over the last few years several trends have 
developed which - if followed through consequently - make the 
appropriation of such a dramatic word for radical change more 

Firstly, the momentum associated with the social uprising of the late 
60s has been transformed into social romanticism and introduced deep 
into popular culture. The French philosophical and political heritage 
of 68 has been essential to the kool theories of the 1980s and 
continues to be fashionable - alongside D&G - in the 1990s. After the 
killer cynicism of the last decade, revolution is cool again. 30 years 
on in European history, throwing a brick into the social hierarchy has 
been aestheticised. Throwing the molotov theme party today does little 
more than deliver hobby politics into the social life of Middle Youth.

Political action outside the parliamentary system turned sour in the 
70s with an increase in terrorist actions. Radical activism, 
fundamentalist politics and direct democracy not only split the left 
outside of the parliamentary system, but also created cracks running 
deep through elected parties, as was the case with the German Green 
party in the late 80s and early 90s. Today's romantic attitudes 
towards the student and workers riots mean nothing when detached from 
their political motivations, especially when they are also divorced 
from their subsequent history. Investigating the assimilation of anti-
establishment iconography within the new market strategies might be 
helpful in understanding some of the recent cultural shifts in the New 
Britain - but it certainly stalls enthusiasm for revolution98...

Secondly, the 'Digital Revolution' has been announced. The fashionable 
transfer of notions of radical change from the sphere of the social 
sciences to those of technological advancement makes one question the 
reliability of the concept of revolution as such. As for revolutionary 
change within societies; attempts to define a universal check-list for 
'The Revolution' have failed. Common sense now tells us that no 
attempt to describe change in unique and idiosyncratic systems is 
capable of creating an "eight out of ten" yardstick for qualifying 
transformation as revolution.

Where does that then leave the 'Digital Revolution'? With no grounds 
for objective definitions, radical change might best be defined by its 
subjects. Following the parameters of intersubjectivity, revolution 
might adequately be described as a dramatic change which forces the 
individuals within a system to renegotiate their roles. But, from that 
point of view, it obviously becomes ridiculous to pin down 'a 
revolution' to an empty technological framework. In the case of The 
Digital Revolution, then, it is clear that there has not been a 
revolution, simply because nobody attended.

Finally, the battlegrounds of subversion have allegedly re-located to 
the digital (and analogue) realms of networked technologies. During 
the 80s 'hacking' came to be regarded as a possible cause of atomic 
war - caused by some 14 year old playing with a public telephone and a 
hair clip. Our public space has been extended into networked media and 
some nurture the idea that the streets have become altogether obsolete 
as a battle ground for political struggle. Today, some tactical media 
operations are prime targets for CIA and FBI monitoring activities - 
seemingly proving the economic threat of such attacks. But, put into 
perspective it becomes questionable whether their terrorist action 
retains any real revolutionary potential.

Some members of the old-time hacker/anarcho scene are currently 
pulling out of the internet - dismissing its currency as a tool for 
radical change. It has been argued that increasing commercialisation 
has blunted the tool. Relevant points of intervention have been washed 
away by millions upon millions of aol supporters. Also, the increasing 
finesse of networked surveillance in the business sector and the 
increase of customer and lifestyle databases more than outweighs the 
dangers of terrorism. So how does the establishment feel about the 
threat posed by the internet guerrillas? In the form of the Committee 
on Culture, Media and Sport, it writes that "over time, public sector 
regulation of content will become increasingly difficult; technology 
will erode the State's capacity to intervene" (Fourth Report on 
content regulation in the internet). Even though this statement does 
not directly concern itself with subversion from within the networks, 
it is quite telling that the government's worries are directed towards 
the future, whereas the small online community of today appears 
negligible. Hard-core net activists have moved their battle grounds 
since the mythological mid 1990s, yet their natural opponent - the 
state - feels that the real danger is about to come, possibly in 2005 
to 2010. It seems more like the eye of the storm than a revolution.

Where does that leave '98? This is certainly not the time nor the 
event for biased propaganda and innovative market strategies. Drop the 
euphoria and let's be realistic...

Revolting hangs up on the Revolution Master Narrative and dials again. 
Revolting is a temporary media laboratory, built upon new modes of 
collaborative and process oriented work in culture, politics, art and 
media activism. It will extend the social space of the workshop into 
the digital realm of the internet and - vice versa - concentrate the 
free floating nature of networked technologies by tying them into the 
social environment of Revolting.

Revolting wants to focus on the realities of media practice. It will 
test-run the individual and challenging approaches of (politically) 
motivated concepts for contemporary technologies. Turning "practice to 
policy" not only presents promising alternatives to the dominant codes 
of conduct, but it also seems necessary for today's media practice.

   [this text was written for Mute magazine, as part of the special
   Revolting issue on net.politics http://www.metamute.com
   see also http://www.yourserver.co.uk/revolting]

(with thanks to Richard Barbrook, Josephine Berry, Martin Conrads
and Pauline van Mourik Broekman)

Micz Flor [micz@yourserver.co.uk]

[t/f]+44.151.7092663 [t]+44.161.2956157 [a]http://www.art-bag.net
[b]http://www.yourserver.co.uk [c]http://www.metamute.com
[q] "Marx, Lenin, Stalin, Trotsky, 
     this lockshen kookel is really hotsky."
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