Toshimare Ogura on Fri, 9 Oct 1998 13:26:19 +0200 (MET DST)

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<nettime> Movements against Network Domination In Japan

[thanks to matt fuller and diana mccarty for editing this text]

Movements against Network Domination In Japan
By Toshimaru Ogura

The Internet has generally been described as a decentralised system.
Within it, people have immense power to communicate and to distribute
their messages - in particular the ability to communicate with complete
strangers, something previously monopolised by mass media. This is correct
from a bird's-eye view of the Internet. But from each user's point of
view, the Internet has a different form.

The conditions and rules of participation in the network imposed
upon the user also define access conditions to the Internet. The system
manager of the network is able to decide almost everything independently
from the ordinary user. The environment of  the user is very much subject
to change  according to the attitude this 'super-user' takes. It is not so
easy to protect ordinary users from the decisions of the super-user
employed by government or company.

>>The Enclosure Movement in Information Capitalism<<

The innovation of computer communication network (CCN) has had a dual
character from the beginning; one is the grass-roots character, the myth
of Apple computer and radical hackers in U.S. hippy subculture; on the
other hand, Arpanet created by the Pentagon. Hackers and media activists
have struggled for their freedom against state interference and they have
tried to disconnect from hierarchical networks and construct a computer
counter culture with a tradition of freedom of cyberspace based on the
grass-roots. But many countries, including Japan, introduced CCN as a
state policy.  Therefore, the view-point of freedom within CCN only has a
very fragile basis. Freedom in CCN is not a de facto standard for network
users. In the case of Japan, the spread of the Internet opened a
possibility of various previously unexperienced information traffics. At
the same time however, the mass of users retain the passive habits made
during the mass media age. The interactive character of CCN does not
function sufficiently.
We have not only to construct economically, socially and
politically concrete free-access conditions, but also to create new values
of network use - self-valorisation for the cyber-proletariat.

>>Case 1. Movement Against The Wiretap Bill<<

For Japanese network activists, one of the biggest themes in recent years
was a movement against a government-proposed wiretapping bill. As a result
of the opposition movements, the Government has not yet legislated the
bill.  The Japanese Government insists that wiretapping is indispensable to
investigate criminal  organisations such as Yakuza and cult groups like
AUM. But, this is only a poor excuse. It is well known that most of the
wiretap investigations so far have been carried out illegally against
left-wing political groups and various autonomous radical movements. [The
Japanese Constitution defines that the privacy of all communication should
be protected. Police cannot legally monitor communications except in very
rare cases.]

Large scale electronic surveillance by police needs a secret connection to
the network backbone. Nippon Telephone & Telegram (NTT) monopolises the
fundamental part of the communication infrastructure in Japan and has
supported illegal wiretapping by police in several cases. Moreover, the
backbone of the Internet passes through Nagata-cho where government
agencies are concentrated. From an infrastructural point of view, these
conditions give an advantage to the large-scale surveillance of CCN.

Anti-wiretap-bill movements have been developed using the Internet.
Specifically, we disclose the records of proceedings in the Laws Council
of the Ministry of Justice and internal materials from the discussion in
the Assembly. We criticise articles of the bill in detail including the
understanding of the criminal situation and the government's emphasis on
the fear of terrorism to justify the law. Various statements opposing the
law from network activists, lawyers' organisations, labour unions and
journalists' organisations appear on the web-pages of the
Anti-Wiretap-Bill Project. By using the Internet, we realise the
connection and co-operation of small groups - something impossible using
phone, fax, mail, printed news letters and other traditional communication
tools because of their technological character as one-way or one to one
communication as well as the burden of their cost. However, the importance
of action in the real world also remains. Mass protest action in the
national assembly, mass meetings and demonstrations are indispensable in
order to change real politics.

>>Struggles in the Real world of Japan<<

How are the conditions of the real world related to CCN in Japan? The
situation has become very serious for us. NTT can already track the phone
number and location of someone using a mobile phone.  The phone number and
address or location of the caller was previously private. Now it is
outside the range of the legal protection of privacy.

The traffic surveillance system, the so-called "N System" reads license
plate of passing vehicles and transfers the data to a police mainframe.
The system is an enormous data-base which can confirm which car ran
through where and when. The police state that the N System is used for the
investigation of traffic violations such as speeding. But, after the
system was introduced, there was no increase in the arrest rate for
violation of traffic regulations. The N system was however useful in the
case of the AUM Shinri Kyo. It functioned as a system to sense the
movement of the adherents' cars. There is a suspicion that the N System is
being used as a surveillance system for public order, not for criminal

Not only cars but bicycles have to be registered with the police. Using
the police online computer system, bicycle theft can be confirmed from the
registration number within moments.
In Japan, private relationships tend to depend on public relationships -
not as something co-operative but as a relationship dominated by the
state. The concept of the family is used not only for kinship but for
company organisation and state constitution. Therefore, private space is
invaded by the state and public spaces like the street and community
facilities are considered, not as belonging to people, but as possessions
of the state. We must construct rights to the city as a fundamental human
right - something established for several centuries in the West.

>>Domination Behind Chaos<<

This may seem strange because Japanese cities have a chaotic face - an
exotic and disordered image - like the movie "Blade Runner", or as Chiba
City appeared in the science-fiction novels by William Gibson. The big
cities like Tokyo and Osaka have wooden houses like temporary shelters
alongside high buildings, narrow, winding and labyrinthine paths
intermingling with subways and highways. Address indication is
insufficient.  People from outside get lost easily. Though such disorder
is visible, control of city space by the government and police is
exhaustive. Street graffiti and posters are hardly seen, and there are few
street vendors. The temporarily vehicle-free promenades on Sunday are
being abolished one after another. The subway in New York recently got
cleaned up - but the Japanese one has never been decorated with graffiti
until now. Public transportation stops around 12 o'clock at night.

The data base of inhabitants is complete. The family registration system,
(koseki seido) which is characteristic of Japan, is the system of control
by the state over the individual based on the patriarchal family. Now,
this traditional patriarchal system works via a data-base.  Movements in
Japan have developed a struggle against such oppressive control: no family
register system; no isolated education for handicapped people; no
computers for surveillance and control; street rights for the homeless,
and so on.

Control and surveillance of the real world are done through the world of
the computer network. The real world and CCN are seamlessly connected. We
do not live in the dual worlds of the real "and" the "cyber". Both worlds
form an inseparable, intertwined, one world. From the viewpoint of the
information surveillance system of the state, our body is a terminal for
CCN and a check-point in the real world. Our body belongs to the world of
the real and the cyber. Therefore, our real/cyber body is a battlefield
for liberation movements for one world.

>>Failure of Information Manipulation<<

Just as eighteenth century industrial capitalism established the work
ethic, post-industrial information capitalism has to establish a
communications ethic.

The freedom to send information as a fundamental right didn't get firmly
established in Japan in the age of mass media. Free radio stations hardly
exist except for a few, such Radio Home Run, and experimental practices by
Tetsuo Kogawa and Jun Oenoki. There are no free radio stations by
radicals. On the other side, the Internet expanded the circuit of
information for individuals by using web, mail, newsgroups and so on.
Network users come to doubt to the mass media system through the
experience of hyper-text and interactive communication on CCN. But, this
is not enough to guarantee the formation of new and alternative circuits
of information in the real world.  The Japanese police arrest users who
link to sites abroad upon which appear contents that would be illegal in

Counter culture has shaped alternative information network behind the
scenes of the mass media. CCN allows people a similar power to publish
information to mass media.  Accordingly, counter cultures become
increasingly independent and form their own communication networks.

Dominant cultural capital cannot create new cultural product by their own
effort, they need to exploit counter/sub culture.  But, The cultural
industry faces the loss of their resources. In response, they try to
integrate counter-culture and to restructure the order of the networks.
The monopolisation of so-called intellectual property and copyrights is
their prime strategy for forcing an enclosure movement on CCN. This new
enclosure movement tries to establish information structures along
capitalist lines; tracing the line of property, sorting according to
possibilities for commodification and criminalising some forms of
Electronic surveillance and wiretapping by police, and the
information enclosure movement by mass media are in close co-operation with
each other. Both are processes of a new cyber/real world order of
information. If network users are integrated into this order, they are
forced to exploit their communicative work and depend on the moral
standards made by this new master.

>>Crisis of Domination<<

The modern system of domination in the 20th century has been based on a
one-way information system. The modern nation state has reproduced
nationalism by the mass media and mass democracy. The effective function
of universal suffrage was guaranteed only by such one-way information
systems. The public receives a large quantity of information one-sidedly
through the mass media. The mass media behaves as if it represents public
opinion and forms a stereotypical view of the world. The election system
quantifies public opinion by the votes cast. Minority groups realise their
interests only by the sympathy of majority groups. The people's will is
quantified and reduced to national will, national identity. The necessity
of the reduction of people's opinion to quantified data is dependent on
the level of data-processing technology. Individuals turn into a countable
mass. Computer technology overcomes such a limit of data-processing. From
the management of customers to public welfare policy, individuals recover
their own characteristic attributes. At the same time, computer technology
has been developed for the interactive communication of individuals.
People need not necessarily present their opinions solely by voting or
entrusting them to a candidate. They can make them themselves by using

>>Toward A Revolution of Singularity<<

CCN gives a means of expression to minority groups without depending on
the paternalism of the majority or of the representative system. Various
connections amongst minority groups across state boundaries realises
world-wide solidarity. The geographical border becomes meaningless.  
People who have the same interest cross borders and cooperate. As a result
of this, national identity begins to vacillate. People prefer direct
expression in the network to a quantified voting system. The limits to a
political system of decision by the majority come into the open. Young
people's voter turnout is very low in Japan. They distrust the
representative system. They become not apolitical, but refuse
quantification of their political will. They try to constitute
self-valorisation of their own information.

This is a possibility for a new and radical politics of singularity even
though it is still perhaps at an unconscious level. It may even become an
opportunity to dismantle the nation state, patriarchy and nationalism in

** toshimaru ogura **
** **
** **

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